Creative ideas to help improve mental health

According to research carried out by the New Economics Foundation, there are five principles to follow in order to take care of our well-being. These are:

Connecting with people

Being active and engaging in some form of exercise

Taking notice of how we feel and the world around us

Keep learning new things

Giving time to help others

In this blog post, we have shared some creative ideas, activities, and resources from our Room for Art artists that fit in with the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ and could help to improve our mental health.

Connect

Connecting with others and feeling valued in our relationships is critical to our sense of wellbeing. With this in mind, we encourage you to reach out and make a connection with someone; maybe a colleague, your neighbour or a friend.

Artist Fraser Gray suggests organising a collaborative art project as a fun, interesting way to come up with new ideas and develop artistic friendships.

A collaborative, mixed media installation by Room for Art participants, Kim and Stephanie, submitted as part of our Positive Places Exhibition in 2020

Why not arrange to swap an unfinished artwork with a friend? You could add your own twist and send it back when you are done. They might do something you would never have thought of!

Naturally, this works best when it’s a piece that you are not particularly precious about. We recommend letting your collaborator know this too so that they don’t worry about ruining it! Also, these things can take a little time so make sure to build in a good few months to complete your project. If it works out, you could even send a sketchbook back and forth!

Be Active

We know that being active is good for our health and that regular exercise can help to prevent serious illnesses. However, the importance of physical activity in supporting mental health is less often spoken about.

Evidence shows that being more active and spending time outside in nature can be hugely effective in helping us to manage our mental health and improve our general sense of wellbeing.

‘Sweet Chestnut Leaf Hole’ by Andy Goldsworthy from the Art in Healthcare Collection

Here are some creative activities from artist Sally Price to try whilst out on a walk or in your garden:

  1. Collect some natural materials and find a secluded outside space to arrange them in a simple shape or pattern. Photograph it then leave it for others to find and bring joy to their day! You could always go back for the next few days and watch it change.
  2. Bring a collection of longer-lasting natural objects home with you – sticks or stones will work well. Arrange them on paper (or on a windowsill) into patterns and sculptures. You can use these as natural building blocks to create different compositions.
  3. Forge for natural materials to make your own paints. You could try mud, different spices and flowers or leaves. Watch how the colours and textures change over time!
  4. Simply look when you are outside: the twist and silhouettes of tree branches against the sky; the buds on the trees that are about to burst, or the variety of colours that appear and change every day. You could photograph or draw what you see, or simply enjoy what you are looking at!
An eco-print on cotton, naturally dyed grey with oak galls, by Room for Art participant Kirsty submitted as part of our Positive Places exhibition

Take Notice

Taking a little bit of time to observe, be in the moment and enjoy your surroundings can greatly enhance your wellbeing and help to reduce stress.

Artist Leo du Feu recommends sitting in a comfortable position and listening to the sounds you hear around you. Take your time and start to draw what you hear. How would you depict a bumblebee buzzing, swallows twittering or footsteps on gravel?

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts and emotions can also increase self-awareness. ENCOUNTERS is a dementia-inclusive art book designed to stimulate communication, explore ideas, and provide a focus for being creative.

Head over to the Art in Healthcare website to find out more or download your free copy here!

Keep Learning

Setting goals for yourself and continuing to learn through life will enhance your self-esteem. Learning also encourages social interaction, leading to a more active life and higher levels of wellbeing.

We have been working on collating all of our resources over on Pinterest and we have some great video resources over on our YouTube channel. Why not have a browse and set yourself a goal of learning something new? You might surprise yourself!

Give

Research has shown that helping others and making acts of kindness can help to increase our overall sense of wellbeing.

As a little act of kindness, you could create a piece of artwork for someone special. It might be a nice idea to fill a zine with drawings as a handmade, thoughtful gift. You will find a tutorial by artist Rosemary Taylor here, with some mini book-making techniques that might be useful for getting started.

This bracelet was made by Room for Art participant Lindsay to give to her friend. It celebrates her friend’s bravery and positivity and was submitted as part of our Positive Places exhibition

If you would like more information about the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ or some additional mental health support, check out Mind.

25 January 2023 by

Ursula Bevan Hunter