Can creativity help my depression or low-mood?

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Do you find yourself struggling with low mood or depression and wonder how creativity could help?

Creativity can sometimes be the last thing you're thinking of when going through depression or low mood.  I have suffered from depression since early adulthood but was only diagnosed officially about 10 years ago.  I can honestly say that since being diagnosed and seeking help, I feel a different person and to answer my own question, yes, I do think creativity helped (and does help) enormously.

creativity depression

When I was depressed, I had many negative emotions swirling around in my head at any one time and it was really hard to make sense of them and to give them any space.  In fact truthfully, I didn't want to give my troubled thoughts any space but once I started to feel better, getting those feelings out whether onto paper with a paintbrush, felt tip, crayon or indeed writing out the 'yuck' in my journal was exactly what I needed - it's that need to release and let go that's so helpful I've found.

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I can hear you saying '... but I'm not creative' and yes in the daily busyness of life we can sometimes forget that we are creative beings and that we have always needed to express ourselves in some way or other for thousands of years - I'm thinking of cave paintings, primitive sculpture, carvings, music, dance, ritual etc.  It's in our DNA and to restrict that flow is just not good for us.

Remember, you already use your creativity without even being conscious of it.  For instance, how you team colours together in an outfit, cooking a meal, arranging spring bulbs in your garden or a planter etc.

Summer memories

I was fascinated to read in this study about women who were being treated for cancer and how the visual arts helped them on various levels and how their practice must have made so much difference to their lives and how they negotiated their illness.  See below for the main benefits they experienced:

  1. The women felt it 'helped them focus on positive life experiences, relieving their ongoing preoccupation with cancer'.

  2. It increased their sense of 'self-worth'.

  3. They felt they didn't have to be 'defined by cancer' - they could let their personality come through over and beyond their illness.

  4. Perhaps most importantly, it helped the women 'express their feelings in a symbolic manner, especially during chemotherapy'.

Of course, you don't have to be seriously ill to benefit from sparking your creativity - so if you're struggling at the moment, I do encourage you to pick up a brush, pen or camera and just play.  Don't think about what you're doing so much as just listen to that small voice within.  Don't feel you have to 'create' anything specific to start with - maybe just concentrate on applying colour to paper, taking a photo of a leaf or simply doodle a pattern in your notebook.  The point is, just start...

Please share in the comments below what approaches have worked for you and if you need help kick starting a creative practice, learn more about this here.