Creative Activities Can Relieve Depression
Engaging in creative activities can relieve depression because the process can be relaxing, engaging and enjoyable (Exploring The Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness). The end result is often satisfying, too. We often forget to make time to be creative, but our we can find depression relief with creative activities.
Why Might Creative Activities Relieve Depression?
Doing something creative forces us to come out of the inner workings of our mind because we have to put our mind to work on whatever we're creating. I know, personally, that spending too much time in my own head will worsen my depression symptoms; so doing a creative activity is a good way to steer my brain in a different direction.
The achievement we feel when we've created something is also a boost to self-esteem. It doesn't matter whether we're good at it or not, especially if we're learning a new creative outlet-- my first attempts at knitting and crochet were all over the place, but I was so proud of that first square and I was motivated to learn more.
Repetitive creative activities like knitting, crocheting, cross stitching, painting or those adult coloring books that have suddenly become really popular for stress-busting, can also be quite soothing or even meditative. I never got on with formal meditation, but I figured out later that my version of it was to lose myself in an activity like woolcrafts or playing piano, which I've done ever since I was a child.
Most of us had hobbies or activities that we loved to do as children and that might have kept us so absorbed that we'd forget everything else. If you're thinking to yourself right now, "but I don't have any creative hobbies," thinking back to what you loved to do as a child is a good start.
Why It's Difficult to Use Creative Activities for Depression Relief
Motivation to begin a creative activity is the hard bit. Depression can drain you of your will to live, and, of course, everything else. You can, however, make your favorite creative activities (or even one that you want to learn) part of your plan to prevent depression. The key is recognizing the early signs of depression relapse, because that's when the depression monster is more likely to be warded off by diversionary tactics.
Even if you're in a bad patch, you can still use creativity to help -- just keep it manageable. Don't start big projects that you won't finish. Start small, even if the level of the activity is below your usual level of mastery on a good day. I wouldn't, for example, attempt a complicated Fair Isle knitting pattern when I've got symptoms of brain fog from depression, because that would likely result in failure and make me feel worse.
Give Yourself Permission to Be Creative
In the following video, I'm going to talk a bit more about why we need to prioritize creativity and playfulness in our lives and how to give ourselves permission to do it.
Image Attribution: Amanda Tipton, used under Creative Commons license.
Smith, L. (2016, February 2). Creative Activities Can Relieve Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2016/02/creative-activities-may-relieve-depression
Author: Liz Smith
Very interesting reading. Thank you.
This was well written. I certainly agree with every word and subscribe to creativity for relieving depression. But I am naturally creative. I write, quilt, colour, design, etc. I call these my 'quiet pursuits' and they keep me sane. I do wonder however, if it helps someone who is not naturally creative. For instance, I talked to someone the other day who got some crayons for Christmas but when she went looking for an appropriate colouring book could find nothing, said they were all too detailed. 'And besides' she said 'I would be afraid of putting the wrong colours in the wrong spots'. Whereas I look at all of the neat colouring books out there and am in awe of the beautiful designs and find it hard to limit myself to just one book. So for someone like that there would be no enjoyment. Any experience with that sort of or advice for someone like that?
Creativity is what it feels like to you - it doesn't have to be making or drawing etc. Reading is creative for some people, as is watching enjoyable films or TV dramas, for example - because you engage with the characters, the story, the events. Writing, journaling, dance, and music are creative too - it's all about engaging with a creative force and different ways to express yourself, it doesn't have to be visual necessarily. Something that feels creative for me (like knitting) might be arduous or hard work for someone else, so there should definitely be an element of enjoyment in it otherwise it won't feel creative.
Loved the article, Liz!
I never really thought about creativity being linked to depression before! I read two other interesting articles on how to help people with depression called How To Help Someone With Depression – The Definitive Guide and How To Help A Friend With Depression – The Dos and Don'ts
Would love your take on these articles, Liz, as you are a blogger I really look up to! I also followed you on Twitter!
I've just heard recently that coloring books are great therapy for depression. Personally I'd prefer to crochet.
I am having trouble getting my wife to become interested in anything creative. She justs sits and watches TV.
You mean I should play, 'kick the can' again? Actually, it was fun. I remembering taking my young son to a water park in Boise, Idaho about 5 years ago. We both had a blast. I remember how simple fun and laughter can be. Void of financial and depression worries.