Creativity for Mental Health - your checklist.

Cally Philips shares suggestions for how creativity can open up space to allow for new connections and refresh our mental health. In a fast paced world we need to carve out time to find what we enjoy, what helps us relax and how we can all develop our creativity.


When thinking about creativity - as I often do - it seems to be summed up so admirably in the mother of all brands:  JUST DO IT.

When it comes down to it, creativity is something that’s best defined through the individual. So don’t worry if your definition varies from mine (or from the big brands) - that’s just creativity in action.

For me, creativity stretches beyond the immediacy of the Nike swish. It’s less about falling into Microsoft’s windows and more about engaging with my creative self on a personal one to one level.  It’s a vital part of my identity.

When I hear the phrase Mental Health, I always transpose it to a picture of a mental elf.  He’s got a twin, physical elf.  I can’t draw but I imagine them something like the Rice Krispies kids (showing my age). It always makes me laugh. And laughing’s healthy, right? 

Creativity is good for your mental health. But it takes practice. It needs to be developed.

First you find your creative self. Then you embrace it. Then you learn how to live with it. This is about developing confidence and competence (they are not the same thing!) and giving yourself  the time/space and permission to explore. To BE creative not just DO creative.

For maximum health benefit I can suggest the following prescription:

Make time to be creative every day.

Commit to creativity.

It doesn’t have to be time consuming,  even if you just allow yourself a few creative thoughts per day.  Just give yourself permission to think outside the box hey, give yourself permission to step out of the box on a regular basis. See things differently. Embrace the difference. Enjoy yourself.

I like to lead by example so here’s an act of creativity. Not exactly something out of nothing, but something out of something else.

The Top 10 tips for looking after your mental health as offered by the World Mental Health Foundation are listed on their website. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-mental-health

They are, let’s face it, while worthy, perhaps a bit dull in presentation. So I thought I’d play around with them creatively.  I changed them around into groupings that made more sense to me. That’s being creative! See, you can be creative with almost anything, even box ticking exercises. (I stopped short of colour coding them and giving them names - but you don’t have to!)

Here goes:

Group 1:  Keep active. Eat Well. Drink Sensibly 

Hey we all know this, right?  This is just the basic advice for any kind of healthy life, physical or mental.  This group represents the  intersection between looking after your body and your mind (they are connected you know!)

Creative tip 1: From cooking up a storm to mixing a cocktail, from going for a walk to pogo-ing round the dance floor, we all know how to be creative in this group.

Group 2:   Talk about your feelings. Keep in Touch. Ask for Help. Care for others

This is about your social habits. About being who you are in the world and how you connect with other people. It can sound daunting, even scary, but hey, social media can come to your rescue here. Or just hanging out with your mates in ‘real’ life. If not mates, then family, if not family then… I can heartily recommend volunteering - whether your focus be people or activity, you’ll find that as soon as you engage with  a social group you are creative - sharing is creative by its very nature.  I give you my thought, you give me yours, we make something new out of those thoughts.  Together.

Creative tip 2: Communication, conversation, and caring are all creative activities. But sometimes you need to work on Group 3 before you’re really ready for Group 2.

Group 3:  Take a break. Do something you’re good at. Accept who you are

This is the group that often gets overlooked.  The ‘me’ time. The ‘self’ which is NOT repeat NOT selfish. (understanding that focus on the self isn’t selfish it’s vital to good mental health. )  Do something you enjoy. This group is as much about BEING as it is about DOING. It’s about giving yourself space and time.

Creative tip 3:   As regards doing something you’re good at: well, you know, you don’t even really have to be good at it. You just have to want to do it and (most of the time) enjoy doing it. When you figure that out, and give yourself permission for some ‘me’ time, you’re well on the way to accepting who you are.

You can be creative in all three groups. If you feel particularly creative you can make yourself a chart or a map of them and work out how to integrate and apportion each group into your life.  Do it in glorious technicolour. Make it into a puppet show.  A corkboard animation.  Anything you like. But hey, don’t just tick boxes, don’t just read advice guidelines - get creative with them.

Release your own creative mental (and physical) elves. Be body positive. Befriend the twins. You never know where they may lead you.