invest in your mental health and get creative

Are you content with how you spend your evenings? Are you stressed and overwhelmed? Struggling with your mental health?

I have a suggestion for you. It’s called, CREATE NIGHT.

I listened to a podcast about happiness a while back (BBC radio 4 I think) and one guest on the show talked about happiness being a less salient state. We tend not to notice it as much as we notice the unhappiness and stress. I believe this is true. Throw our digital world into the mix and before you’ve even blinked, your happiness at the beautiful sunrise you’ve just experience is thrown aside by the discontentment you now feel after seeing the breathtaking photo of the Northern Lights that someone has just posted on Instagram.

The show participants went on to discuss when they felt the most happy. This was when they were doing something that required their full attention. It was an activity that forced them to be fully engaged in the moment. This is one of the reasons gardening is good for you. It is one such task that fully absorbs you, mind and body. It presents little problems that aren’t world-crushing, but require your thoughtful attention to solve. You learn and achieve, which is uplifting. It can have it’s failures and frustrations but at the end of the day – it’s just a garden.

In our garden, I set aside this patch to plant vegetables and then planted some flower seeds in the adjacent bed. A purple, butterfly-attracting blend of flora and fauna. My husband observed to me the other day, once the plants were well and truly growing, “it’s interesting how you’ve planted butterfly-attracting flowers next to the vegetables seeing as how their offspring will destroy anything edible that grows there.”

Well, a little too late with the nature lesson, pal.

It was actually kind of funny. Whereas, when things go wrong at work, it’s not so funny. Palpitation-inducing, rather.

what is CREATE NIGHT?

It is an evening when you set out to create something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be for a purpose. In fact, it’s ideal if it’s not purposeful. If you end up giving it away or using it for something because it’s ended up being rather delightful, then bonus.

If you don’t believe you are creative, you’re wrong. Every human being is. We all just create different things. To create means to bring something into existence that wasn’t there before. It is a skill that can be practised and the more you create the more “creative” you become, which can benefit you in all areas of life including work.

what could you create?

Your CREATE NIGHT could involve the following skills/activities:

  • Drawing
  • Model building
  • Letter writing
  • Poetry
  • Scrap-booking
  • Photography
  • Sewing
  • Baking
  • Videography
  • Orienteering
  • Writing fiction
  • Writing non-fiction
  • Event planning
  • Recipe writing
  • Connection (not just any socialising but intentional, like phoning the Gran you don’t keep in touch with well)
  • Gardening
  • Interior design
  • Sculpting
  • Painting
  • Reviewing
  • Dancing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Beauty therapy
  • Design
  • Scheduling
  • Language-learning
  • Video game design
  • Computer programming

The idea is that you’re not doing one of these things to tick off an admin task or do something you needed to do anyway. It is simply to create.

why, though?

It is good for your mental health. This is because it absorbs you in the task and serves as a distraction, as already mentioned. It also serves as it’s own kind of therapy.

“Often creativity helps you to express parts of yourself that are being hidden,” says Dr Sheridan Linnell, who runs the Master of Art Therapy course at the University of Western Sydney. “Expression through art can be healing in itself, and it can also be a stepping stone for being able to make sense of yourself and express your story to others.”

From a Guardian article about Art Therapy

CREATE NIGHT is an antidote to perfectionism. No one ever makes the perfect result first time around. That can often be the agonising thing about being a professional artist – not knowing when to call a piece ‘finished’.

My perfectionism trait is a trigger for anxiety. The fear of getting it wrong when it really counts can be paralysing. To open myself up to mistakes and failure when it doesn’t count helps me build resilience.

The focus is on creating something and that is the achievement, not the standard of the created thing. Feeling a sense of achievement is so important when you’re battling a mental health problem.

So, why don’t you join me? Any night of the week, whatever you fancy creating. Tweet me with a pic or just tell me what you created #createnight

some rules

No criticising what you create to others. It’s not the point. And if it’s amazing, no one likes false humility. 😉

No pressure. You don’t have to commit to doing it on the same night and every week. It’s not supposed to be something else you could fail at and feel guilt over.

Go wild! Imagine this, you could actually try the thing you’ve been wanting to try doing forever. Ssh! No one even has to know, it’s just for you. Why can’t you write a book? Why can’t you paint a picture having never picked up a paintbrush since you were nine, except to paint your lounge?

Share your create night with others but don’t let it limit you nor bring out your inner-critic. It’s vulnerable but that could be a good thing if you’re both/all willing to share in it.

print .jpg
A creation from my first #createnight. I was making monoprints by laying paper down onto ink and drawing on the back. I used a scrap bit of paper to lift excess ink from the glass and decided there was something nice about it and wrote on top with a sharpie.
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