Did you know that taking part in a creative activity can bring numerous benefits to your mental health and wellbeing? Don’t just take our word for it, see what research has found…

Engaging with the visual arts can reduce reported anxiety - according to a report published by University College London’s MARCH mental health network (2018). Author Dr Daisy Fancourt said:

The arts are linked with dopamine release, which encourages cognitive flexibility, and they reduce our risk of dementia.

Listening to music, singing and music therapy aid physical and cognitive recovery from brain injury; visual arts activities contribute to emotional recovery - as highlighted by All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing in the 2017 Inquiry Report.

Results from The Great British Creativity Test (2019) - a major survey with almost 50,000 participants - reveals that creativity is used as: 

  • a distraction tool to avoid stress.
  • a contemplation tool to give us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and make plans.
  • a means of self-development to face challenges by building up self-esteem and confidence.

picture of a woman holding a painting of an orange flower

How can creativity really benefit people like you

With the occasion of World Mental Health Week, Rachel New (Creative Lives On Air Producer and BBC CWR Presenter) met the inspiring people behind Arty-Folks and the participants in their creative workshops. In this audio interview, we get a sense of how good it feels to get creative from 18-year old Leah and Sue. Take a listen.

Our favourite quotes:

Doing this gives you that moment of serenity where you’re not actually thinking about work, about school…


"I was depressed and I was recommended to join Arty Folks. It’s been a life saviour for me, with all the arts and crafts, because it calms me down, keeps me sane. I’ve done paintings, made some banners that say ‘Be positive’ and things like that…" [Sue]

Sue also feels that her level of depression has been reduced by about 70% thanks to her creative activity. 

Why is creativity a good way to improve your mental health

Lorella Medici from Arty-Folks shares a few more details about the creative mindfulness courses available for people of all ages in Coventry, especially for those still shielding and struggling with anxiety, for the unemployed as well as for those dealing with work-related stress. Lorella argues that:

(...) our mental health is spiralling out of control because we don’t give ourselves any more good times, playful times, carefree times to just be.

Chris Reed from Creative Kindness, a creative group meeting regularly to promote positive wellbeing, talks about the motivation behind starting the group and her personal story of struggling with depression. When asked about how running Creative Kindness has helped deal with her mental health, Chris replied:

"It’s given me a reason to get up in the morning. I’m passionate about the work that we do and continuing it. It’s something special for people to come to, to be part of… We’re there for each other."

For World Mental Health Day, the group members created booklets with fingerprint art and uplifting messages, such as ‘Be your awesome self’, for people who would benefit most. The booklets were then circulated in various community libraries in and around Coventry. 

Rachel New also met the Coventry Men’s Shed during one of their creative workshops and found out from the group founder, Mark Gibbins (or Gibbo - as everyone calls him), how running this group helps him better deal with social anxiety and mental health. Rachel also spoke with Craig, the bead making workshop leader, who himself struggles with mental health issues. Craig said:

Coming in to the Men’s Shed help. It gives you something tangible to do. Just a couple of hours a week did help.

Taking part in the group’s activities is also a great way to reduce social isolation and loneliness. One of the participants who started coming to Men’s Shed during the pandemic told Rachel that:

[The Men’s Shed] has a friendly atmosphere and is a welcoming place to be in.

picture of a group of men doing crafts - Coventry Men

Listen to the full interview.

The key to good mental health is the creative process itself

Speaking about what should be the right approach to starting a creative activity, regardless of your level of experience, Lorella said:

"You really need to start doing things that just please yourself. It’s got nothing to do with the end product. It’s got something to do with that thinking time that you have with yourself, being with yourself and just allowing things to happen. You have your creativity to guide you."

Five mindful minutes to try

Believe it or not, a single minute can do wonders for your mental health. Rachel New met Lindsay Jane Hunter (therapeutic arts practitioner) to learn some fun and accessible creative activities you can do to spice up your routine in only 60 seconds… Listen below:

picture of a mandala 

1. Make a mandala out of ordinary objects

If you are sitting at your desk right now, you could create a mandala with a roll of sellotape in the middle and layers of paper clips and post-it notes - anything you have to hand would work.  

2. Make a collage - a lovely activity for anyone who has a fear of art 

To try the flick-and-rip technique, take a pile of magazines, newspapers or leaflets, flick through them at speed and, whenever something grabs your attention (a word / a picture / etc.), just rip it out! Then cut out the bits you like and place them on a piece of paper or another surface of your choice. Then get gluing! 

3. Write an acrostic poem

Think of a keyword and write it on a side of the page and make new words out of each letter (e.g. C-A-L-M). Just write whatever comes to mind, at speed, without worrying too much. 

picture of a colourful bracelet made of beads

4. Have fun with beads

Choose a selection of beads that make you feel good. You thread them on to whatever you’re using and tie them up into a bracelet or a keyring. When you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, you can touch those beads and focus on what they really represent to you. They’re also a good gift for someone you love.

5. Write a short letter to yourself

Take a pen and unleash that inner side of yourself that is very positive and encouraging and write a letter to yourself. Don’t think too much about it, just write it as words come to your mind. Then sign it with ‘Lots of love’ and read it anytime you need a boost of motivation. 

Give these a try right now!

More food for thought

There’s growing evidence of the positive impact that creativity has on our mental health which you can keep up with via:

The echo of all data gathered has made a significant change in public policy and treatment provided by the NHS, bringing in ‘social prescribing’ as a way to connect people to practical and emotional community support.