Blogger Rae Ritchie thinks about how being creative can help to boost your mood ...
The BBC’s Get Creative festival is a welcome attempt to encourage participation in pastimes that are proven to support wellbeing, as mental health practitioners have long recognised.
With its gentle piano music and lingering shots of hands working pins and needles, MAKE! Craft Britain could only be a BBC Four documentary.
MAKE! Craft Britain was a three part series featuring craft novices trying activities such as rug-making, letter-pressing, silver jewellery making and cross stitch (all three episodes are available in the UK on the BBC I-Player).
Few other television channels would risk such long scenes without any narration or dialogue for fear that the audience would drift away.
'Their enjoyment, along with pride about whatever they’d created, was palpable'
Some of those watching did so literally, with a regular on Channel Four’s TV review programme Googlebox captured drifting to sleep when viewing one episode.
MAKE! Craft Britain proved just as relaxing for the participants who were taking part in the craft workshops shown on screen. Several spoke to the camera about how pleasurable the experience had been and reported entering into a state of flow, with no comprehension about how much time had passed.
Their enjoyment, along with pride about whatever they’d created, was palpable.
Also on the BBC website are soundbites from various celebrities sharing their sometimes surprising creative outlets, including Matt Baker (painting), Frank Skinner (ukulele), Lucy Worsley (ballet) and Lacey Turner (upcycling furniture).
As well as the BBC, the Get Creative Festival involves partner organisations such as Arts Council England.
Science is getting in on the arts act too.
A significant aspect of Get Creative 2018 was the Great British Creativity Test, a questionnaire asking the public about their hobbies and, crucially, how they make them feel.
The goal of this large study is to help scientists understand why it is that creativity improves mental wellbeing, providing data that will supplement existing evidence which shows that it does.
Creativity to boost mood
This survey reflects a growing interest in the role of creativity and craft in boosting mood.
According to the BBC site, 20% of GP visits are now due to low mood and loneliness – and referrals to take part in arts and craft activities, rather than a prescription, are becoming more common. Furthermore, arts and crafts have long been a staple of the activities offered in therapeutic settings across the country.
Participants in the MAKE! Craft Britain series, including workshop leaders, talked about how such creative acts had supported their mental health during tough periods. As the leader of the cross stitch workshop explains:
“The amazing thing about cross stitch is that once you start doing it, it kind of slows you down. There’s a repetition to the stitching… it induces this kind of soothing effect in your soul and that’s the beauty of it.
Cross stitch has definitely helped me. We had a situation at home where my wife and me were really struggling to start a family. It’s a really emotional time and there’s a lot of heartbreak and a lot of angst. I used cross stitch as a way to kind of process my emotions.”