Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2023
Creativity and Wellbeing Week
The 15th to the 21st of May 2023 hosts Creativity and Wellbeing week, and Mental Health Awareness week. We are joining the conversation on mental health and sharing ways in which we support our own mental wellbeing.
For many of us creativity can be a way to express our feelings and boost our mood. This may be through music making, singing, dancing, painting, and a host of other practices. Sometimes it can be the creativity in the world around us that inspires us and offers a space for calm reflection. This week we’re asking, ‘What do you do to support your mental health?’
How are you mindful of your mental health?
I’m lucky that I live in a place that is surrounded by countryside. From trails cutting through the countryside, often relics of now disused railway lines, to parklands, once open-cast industrial sites now abundant with developing flora and fauna. I’m also lucky that our family includes a walk and water-loving Labrador who gives us the ‘excuse’ to explore these places frequently.
I often find snippets of songs and melodies in my head as I walk. Sometimes I think set off by the rhythmic motion of walking, but often inspired by the surroundings. As those who know me well, I love to make up a lyric about the situation at the drop of a hat, something very useful in our Healthcare Musician practice. The melodies that come into my head usually stay in there for a while, inspired knowingly or sub-consciously by something seen or heard. They are often forgotten by the end of the walk as the next thing becomes more ‘important’, and that’s OK with me. It’s not about any kind of artistic end-result, but the impact of the journey (or the walk in this case). These moments of calm and creative solitude are really important, and often leave me ready to tackle the next challenge, to complete that piece of work that’s been weighing heavily on my mind, or to continue in the creative vein with some music-making. I think our work often creates a space for people to escape into that moment of creative ‘calmness’, so important for our health and wellbeing.
Take One Day
This video, created for our Take One A Day programme towards the end of 2020 was an attempt at capturing the results of this creative inspiration during a walk, before it was lost. It was inspired by a White Egret who’s rock I borrowed to sit and play out the tune that followed.
Similarly to Nick, I find music can transport me, and help get my feelings out. I often find myself creatively inspired when I am frustrated, sad, or something eventful has happened. Creating music helps me to work through these emotions and events and make sense of them. I also love putting on my favourite songs in the car, or when I am at home and sing and dance (not in the car!) to boost my mood, and get all that energy out.
Last week I was delighted to receive a video from a patient showing Nick and Rich singing to a newborn. That sharing of music not only supported that family in that moment, but came to me at a time when I really needed it, and totally changed my day. The effect music has on us is amazing. To me, the sharing of music is such a generous and special experience. Although we talk everyday, we forget we can use our voices to sing, and express words with more meaning.
As a sociable person, I love spending time with my friends and family and find that talking through things that are on your mind always helps. Even if it is something very trivial, if you are a happy listening ear, others will often reciprocate. It can be useful to go for a walk and have a chat with a friend. By walking you are mirroring the conversation moving forward, working things out step by step, and hopefully coming to a conclusion by the end. I always try to check in on my friends and family and drop them a text or call to see how they are doing and remind them that someone is thinking about them. Sometimes it is just the acknowledgement that you are there that can help someone when they feel isolated.
Take a Breath
I created this video to help us all take a minute, breathe and be mindful of ourselves and our surroundings in this moment.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness in the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is often used as a therapeutic technique, and helps calm and reduce stress.
Watch the video and find out more about Mindfulness and the ‘STOP’ technique.
Our mental health today feels more important than ever before to look after, care and nurture it regularly, similar to our practical health considerations. For many of us, the pandemic really challenged our mental health and the stability of wellbeing, with everyone of us navigating a different route through the lockdowns. Whether it be connecting over Zoom or Teams or simply meeting up with our chosen 1 person in which to chat and refresh that sense of belonging.
For me, as a Healthcare Musician, I really lost that sense of playing for and with patients in real time and in person. However I felt very lucky, being a musician, having the ability to channel my loss of interacting with others into a more creative output of writing pieces of music with different intentions, to share online and hopefully aid someone else’s wellbeing that day. This in turn supported my own wellbeing and mental health too, giving me a sense of purpose again.
I think sometimes it is easy to forget the power music can have on peoples lives everywhere, regardless of whether they are a musician or not. Music can act as a wonderful blanket of comfort in that time of need, whether it be a particular song with powerful lyrics that speaks to you or a particular ear worm tune that you just can’t help but hum or sing. So if there is a particular pressing thought that is pressing on your mind, its always worth turning to your musical blanket to seek some comfort in your own wellbeing and mental health.
This musical video was created as part of our work at Hopewood CAMHS unit in Nottingham in Dec 2022, creating online resources for young people to listen to, engage with and perhaps play along to.
I decided to put together a very simple chill-out piece using the instruments (Ukulele, HAPI drum, Xylophone, and Tar Drum) that we usually use in our practice in hospital settings, and also wanted to include soft vocal textures.
The visuals were collected throughout lockdown, as I, like so many, found new things and places to focus my time on, and found great comfort in the natural landscape around me. Most of them are of outdoor scenes on walks around Derbyshire – some a little further afield when we were allowed to.
I hope the end result is a trance-like piece of music with accompanying scenes that will draw you in. Watch and listen out for the stars of the show – the grouse and the robin! Both the relaxing feel of the music and the chilled pace of nature in the videos is designed to soothe the soul and give you time out for about 6 minutes. I really hope you enjoy it…
For me, maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing means knowing when to pause, redirect or stop. Being able to spot the signs of overwhelm, anxiety or stress within yourself and then having something purposeful to do until the feelings pass is essential. I enjoy going for a walk at those times – what works for you?