What are the links between mindfulness and creativity?
How creativity can help support mental health
Written by Zena El Farra at MasterPeace art studio for Mind Charity
Modern day life can be... overwhelming, so full of distracting chatter. It can be hard to keep your head above water.
At MasterPeace, we practice mindfulness through painting. It's not about how 'good' you are, it's about finding your flow, and creating a moment of calm in an always on world.
Art and the exploration of our creativity can be a powerful, mindful tool that can help us. From relaxing & unwind, processing our emotions, to managing mental health conditions such as anxiety, trauma, and depression - research shows that getting creative can be incredibly effective.
What is mindful creativity?
Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness of our thoughts and what’s going on around us. It allows us to return to the present moment, rest and recover, something we often forget to do and find hard to make time for.
Much like meditation and breathwork, creative activities such as painting are beneficial, calming practices that help us to unwind, and in turn bring us out of our heads into the present moment.
When we learn to truly engage with a creative activity and let go of fear we become more connected with ourselves and others, and this reduces symptoms we may experience due to our mental health. If we allow our ego and all our expectations of ourselves dissolve, we find ourselves in a state of contemplative ‘flow’.
Painting is a way to escape from the overloaded switchboard of life. It establishes an island of silence, an oasis of undivided attention, an environment to recover in.
- Frederick Franck, ‘The Zen of Seeing’
How can creativity positively impact mental health?
Research shows that trying out new and creative activities can tangibly boost the mood, regardless of your skill level. In the largest study of its kind, a BBC survey in partnership with UCL, deduced that there are three main ways we can use creativity as coping mechanisms to help control our emotions:
- As a distraction tool: If we focus on a singular task we are more able to manage stress
- As a self-development tool: to build up self-esteem and inner strength
- As a contemplation tool: to help us reflect on difficult emotions and clear our minds
This same survey found that these benefits are enhanced when the chosen creative activity is new to you, engaged in regularly and involves face-to-face social interaction.
Medical professionals are now beginning to prescribe art as a form or therapy and healing. Art on Prescription, a project backed by Arts council England, has show that hospital admission rates decrease by 27% when people are actively engaging in creative activities or art related activates such as attending galleries and museums. It is not only the process of creating art that helps, but also the interaction with art that can help us feel focused, inspired and moved.
Our London based Studio and Gallery aims to be an all-encompassing experience where you can come to paint and unwind, whilst becoming inspired by the adorned art works in our gallery. All of the pieces in our gallery are by the talented artist who lead our classes, and explore themes around art and mindfulness and their personal journey through painting.
What are the mental health benefits of painting?
There are many ways in which painting can help us become more mindful. Painting can be used as a restorative experience, not just an enjoyable one.
We can focus on using our blank canvas as an outlet to explore personal experiences and express our inner emotions that we may find challenging to speak about or put into words. When we look closely at what we paint we can begin to recognise parts of ourselves and our subconscious, bringing a heightened self-awareness.
Introducing more focused painting, like painting what’s directly in front of you, allows you to really see and evaluate the image, not just look at it. The process of repeatedly bringing focus back to an image has been shown to strengthen our pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making, rational thinking and moderating social behaviour. This, in turn, helps to:
- Increase our awareness
- Enhance our ability for introspection
- Make clearer decisions
- Challenge unhelpful thought processes
Painting allows us to realise and feel gratitude for the things that we have in our lives. Exploring elements of nature, our favourite animal or our family can help us to reconnect to those things that are most important to us and bring us joy at our most fundamental level.
Art is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.
- Auguste Rodin
Painting classes at MasterPeace
If you need help getting started, MasterPeace is London’s first dedicated mindful art experience. We offer classes for adults and children throughout the week. Using our technological hacks, we help give guests a short-cut to find their flow more easily.
We encourage everyone not to evaluate their work as “good” or “bad” but rather to focus on the process and lived experience. We invite people to connect to the process, to what’s meaningful to them and to each other through the shared experience of painting.
All of the thoughts and worries that were swirling through my mind prior to the class had vanished. I only wish the class went for longer – time flew by!
- Meg Stewart, Coached Class
Why not take a creative time out, and visit us at our studio in Belgravia?