Creative ways to calm your mind

Posted on May 1, 2015 by Brynna Gabrielson

Creative ways to ease your mindMental health issues such as anxiety and depression affect nearly a quarter of British adults each year1, and stress is becoming a greater concern for more of us - with 59% of those surveyed in 2013 saying they were feeling more stressed than five years previously2. As these issues become more and more prevalent in our lives it's important to find day to day ways to help us cope with and improve our mental wellbeing. Many creative activities can play a great role in helping to reduce stress as well as ease anxiety and depression. Below we look at five creative ways you can improve and manage your mental wellbeing.
1. Colouring in

Recently a new trend has taken hold: colouring books for adults. Last year the trend exploded in France, with these books full of intricate designs being sold as a way to help manage stress, and just this April an adult colouring book (Secret Garden by Johanna Basford) was topping the book best sellers chart on Amazon.com3. Why has this activity gained such popularity as a way to manage stress and anxiety? Some believe it's due to the repetitive and absorbing nature of colouring in between the lines. Colourers are able to focus solely on their activity and escape the demands of the world, giving them a way to relax and refocus their minds4.

2. Knitting

Like colouring, knitting is a creative, repetitive activity that can be incredibly absorbing. It has been likened to meditation - a proven fighter of stress, anxiety, and depression - and has been shown to release dopamine in the brain - the delightful neurotransmitter that makes us feel good! In a study of more than 3,500 knitters, 81% of respondents said they felt happy after knitting, with more than half saying they felt 'very happy'5. So the next time you're feeling overwhelmed, or a little blue, why not grab a pair of needles and some yarn and get going on a new scarf. If you've never tried knitting before there are some great tutorials online, like this one here.

3. Cooking

There are two reasons you should give cooking a try to benefit your mental wellbeing. Firstly, because the food that we eat can directly impact our health - both mentally and physically - and secondly, because cooking can be a great creative outlet for mental wellbeing. Some mental health care professionals are now offering cooking classes to those who suffer with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. According to the counsellors the courses, "soothe stress, build self esteem and curb negative thinking by focusing the mind on following a recipe"6.

4. Learning an instrument

Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument can have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. A study published in The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry revealed that children who learned to play an instrument were more focused, less anxious and had better emotional control7. However, you don't have to be a child to benefit. A study of adults conducted at the St. Andrews University found that playing a musical instrument can lead to good mental health and help fight depression8.

5. Dancing

Combining creative expression and physical activity, dance is a great way to maintain and improve mental wellbeing. An Australian study involving 41 individuals with stress, anxiety or depression found that those who participated in Tango classes over a period of two weeks showed significant improvement, clinically, in at least one area9. Additionally a Swedish study of 112 girls found that those who participated in dance class improved their mental health and experienced boosted mood10.

Mental Health Awareness Week helps to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues to educate the wider public and break the stigma. Simplyhealth is supporting this awareness drive throughout May. Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week.