How Arts and Creativity Can Support Mental Health

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Entertainment Editor, Izzy Brann, looks at how creativity and the arts can be beneficial to mental health.

Mind currently reports that approximately 1 in 4 of us in the UK will experience mental health problems each year. Indeed, mental health awareness is at its highest and new ways to manage our cognitive wellbeing are being constantly sought.

One of the most popular practices to support our mental health is mindfulness. Whether it involves colouring books or mountain biking, is the quality of being fully engaged and present in a moment or activity, without distractions. How do the arts fit into this?

As the Mental Health Foundation has noted, channelling your creativity and thoughts into focusing on an artistic task can be an efficient way to manage mental distress, alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety while encouraging resilience. Meanwhile, music, painting and other creative endeavours can be used as a way to process emotion and as a form of coping known as ‘art therapy’; it’s a way people can express themselves without having to use words. The arts can provide an aid to recovery, support, communication and a sense of community. Indeed, such widespread benefits are now being recognised.

In 2017, a ground-breaking report, Creative Health, was delivered by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. Presenting findings from two years of research, the report provided evidence and examples on the ways the arts and creativity benefit mental health. From reducing loneliness to allowing a creative escape from everyday stresses, the Group displayed how arts and creativity alleviated loneliness for the elderly, reduced the strain on the NHS and provided a much-needed outlet for those struggling with their mental health.  As such, the Group recommended developing systems to ensure the continued and amplified presence of the arts in the fields of health and wellbeing.

With much support available to students on campus, the arts are not being left behind as a useful way to keep healthy and happy. Matt Youngs, Loughborough Students’ Union’s Welfare and Diversity EO, highlighted the importance of creativity in student life, saying:

“Creativity, no matter how you express it, is a fantastic way to champion your own mental wellbeing, as well as that of your peers. Whether it’s getting lost in a bit of doodling, whiling away the hours with a colouring book or anything else that gets your artistic juices flowing don’t be afraid to jump into something, regardless of your skill level!”

Indeed, in recent weeks the Union has hosted a multitude of social gatherings to have a go at being creative, whether that was through making dreamcatchers or friendship bracelets, in the name of wellbeing and mental health awareness. Such events happen periodically throughout the year so be sure to keep a look out.

Meanwhile, the campus’ own LU Arts, is committed to offering a variety of creative opportunities to support the mental wellbeing of students. Aspects of LU Art’s programme provide the space and opportunity for students to develop skills and be creative in welcoming and relaxed environments, with other students or alone. This includes the regular Happy Mondays taster sessions co-organised with LSU; evening classes in pottery, painting and creative writing; music tuition; and free music practice rooms.

The arts and creativity certainly have an essential role in mental wellbeing, as demonstrated government reports and practised on campus.

Find out more about LU Arts at: lboro.ac.uk/arts

Featured image by Sarah Hannaford

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