I moved to my flat 6 weeks before lockdown – it’s the first time over my 16 years living in London that I’ve had a garden, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Is it possible that green keeps you sane? I’ve certainly benefitted hugely from being able to open the sitting room doors and have a cup of coffee or a gin (!) surrounded by grass, trees and twittering birds.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and very aptly, the theme is Nature. Through pandemic life I think we’ve all recognised the benefits of getting out for a walk or enjoying being somewhere green, away from the distractions of technology. It’s hard though, isn’t it? The lure of phones and computers is ever present.
Tasks we do with a certain level of automatic thought, such as going for a walk, or taking a shower, are great for helping us to stay mindfully absorbed in the present – and there’s an added (creative!) perk as well. Activities that don’t need lots of active thought produce alpha waves, which relax the brain reducing stress levels, allowing you to make unexpected connections and to solve problems – seemingly as if by magic. That’s why you might have your best ideas in the shower (I always do!)
If creativity is finding new connections, our brains are brilliant at it when they are at their most relaxed.
Creative activities such as drawing, knitting, and journaling, can also put our brains into this state of waking relaxation. The burst of problem-solving creativity that alpha waves prompt, as well as the serotonin produced that decreases anxiety, means that a kind creativity loop is activated.
So during Mental Health Awareness Week, why not put this creativity loop to the test?
Go for a magpie walk – I know, we’re all sick of walks now! But try this: take a jam jar with you and find things to fill it with as you walk: a fallen feather, a beautiful leaf or flower, an interesting stone – anything that catches your eye.
Noticing things as you walk stops you focussing on anything else – whether that’s your phone or what you’re worrying about, giving your brain chance to relax.
At home, turn your objects into art. Just 15 minutes of this will help boost those alpha waves. Lay out your finds in different ways: consider how the colours and shapes work together; photograph or draw them; take rubbings of interesting textures; give titles to your works of art.
You may not be winning a Turner Prize anytime soon, but I bet you feel better about any pesky problems rattling around your brain.
What are your favourite things to do that get you out and about, that help you feel better? I’d love to hear – leave me a comment below!
If you like this and would like more suggestions for mindful creativity, subscribe to Bumblebee and receive a great book each month from a small publisher, accompanied by creative prompts to help you switch off and absorb yourself in writing, drawing, cooking or making – inspired by the book.
with love and creativity,
Imogen at Bumblebee HQ x