My university tutor once told me: ‘The Ancient Greeks were doing something right when they made Apollo the god of poetry and medicine.’ I was talking to him about the therapeutic effects of writing – how getting all of your thoughts down on paper can make you feel so much better.
Of course, as well as improving physical health, all of the creative arts provoke catharsis – the release of emotion. Whether it’s a dramatic or musical performance, an expressive dance or a piece of artwork, each thing that we create contains a little bit of us.
Undoubtedly, the creative arts boost our wellbeing by encouraging us to tell our own stories but how exactly do they do this?
Being part of a group
When you find people who share the same interests as you, it feels great. You become part of a team who can celebrate each other’s achievements and sympathise when things aren’t going well.
Isolation can lead to feelings of anxiety and loneliness but being surrounded by like-minded people gives you the opportunity to express how you feel and confide in friends.
You learn a lot about people from creative workshops, for instance the kind of subjects they tend to focus on, and being part of a group allows everyone to express themselves without being judged.
Clearing your mind
Life is hectic for all of us and we rarely set aside time to focus on ourselves.
Being creative allows us to think things through as we write, paint or perform on the subject that is troubling us. By confronting our own issues through our creations, we can articulate our feelings and find solutions to the problems we are facing.
Let’s pretend you’re writing a piece of fiction and the character you are writing about is in the same situation as you; how does the character respond? What would they do in your position?
Getting everything out of our heads and into our art enables us to see things a bit more clearly.
Increasing your confidence
Sharing your own creative work with others is scary. Art is not impersonal; it is just about the most personal thing in the world.
Letting other people watch, read or hear your work is like giving them a glimpse of your world; we draw on our own experiences, feelings and thoughts to make something that we can share with others. But it does get a little bit easier each time you do it and when you’re surrounded by friends, it’s even better.
Having an increased level of confidence gives us the ability to assert ourselves, trust our own decisions and become independent – all important life skills!
Having a distraction
Whenever I face any difficult moments in my life, I lose myself in my writing. I can create characters who live anywhere in the world (or even on the moon!) with different lives, different stories, different families, different problems.
Being fully engaged in something else alleviates the stress of our own lives and indulging in something creative helps us to escape completely. Without even realising it, some of the issues I face come through in my writing; creatively expressing ourselves in an indirect way is still helping us process what we’re going through, even if we can’t face them head on.
It brings us back to who we really are
Don’t you remember playing all the time when you were a little kid? Acting out situations from your own life and pretending to be a grown-up or a superhero?
As we grow, we sometimes hide our emotions because we don’t want to appear vulnerable but creativity explores all our deepest, darkest corners. It is honest & true and it reveals who we really are beneath the image we convey to everyone around us.
It reminds us that no matter how caught up we are in everyday life, there is still a part of us that wants to create. And it makes us remember what we really want in life, what makes us happy.
We all have a story to tell. So sing it, paint it, dance it, write it! You might just be making yourself happier in the process.