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Why engaging in creative leisure courses can benefit your mental health and wellbeing

Life can be hectic and unpredictable and there are times where we can over-engage with digital channels to give us some feeling of escape.

Life can be hectic and unpredictable and there are times where we can over-engage with digital channels to give us some feeling of escape. This has been highlighted even more during the Coronavirus pandemic, as people feel more and more reliant on social media as a way of staying in touch with others.  

But in this digital age are we realising the negative effects overconsumption can have on our mental health? And what can we do to manage our mental health?   

One thing is clear, it’s important to keep checking in on your mental health as we anticipate more change and disruptions to our everyday lives. Self-care and mindfulness are becoming increasingly important skills for us all to develop, which has seen rise to adult colouring books and apps such as Headspace that are aimed at reducing stress and anxiety. But have you ever considered signing up to a part-time leisure course as a more effective alternative? 

 

1. Emotional and mental health benefits

Studies have found positive links between craft and our mental health. More and more health professionals are prescribing arts and crafts as therapy or engaging with arts and culture (‘social prescribing’) to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Craft has a long history as treatment for mental ill health. Just in the 21st century, the introduction of basketry has helped soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Still being used today, the organisation Combat Stress has turned to other forms of craft such as pottery (offered at Reading, Bracknell & Wokingham, Banbury and Oxford Colleges) to help aid soldiers in their recovery.  

Another study from the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing has found improvements in patients suffering from mental ill health, when exposed to arts and crafts therapy. The meditative nature of these practices – its repetitiveness, the multi-sensory engagement required and the anticipation and satisfaction of a finished product that has proved effective in various ways.  

Studies have found this creative process to lower stress, improve mood and reduce anxiety. As these require such careful attentiveness and focus, the brain sends various ‘feel good’ chemical signals to our bodies, reducing the release of neurotransmitters that create negative thoughts. This also exercises our cognitive flexibility which can reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s in later years. 

 

2. Promoting community

Lockdown was particularly difficult as we engaged with our community less and focused on keeping our families safe. MentalHealth.org have found that social restrictions have left millions of people in the UK feeling isolated and lonely. A study from 2019 has shown that engaging in arts and culture in a community setting has been associated with lowering the risk of developing dementia.  

One of the things we find from speaking to those who come along to college for our courses is that while they enjoy the creative outlet the course gives them; they also really enjoy to social aspect of meeting new people who share a similar interest and passion. This sense of togetherness is something a lot of people will be searching for now as we move into increasingly uncertain times.  

 

3. Sense of achievement

That sense of achievement and looking at the good work you have done is an added bonus to the mental health and wellbeing aspect! Not only does this boost your mood but your selfesteem and confidence grow as you master your craft.  

In a world aided by technology to get what we want instantly, there’s very little sense of satisfaction in waiting anymore. Your devotion to the creation process and witnessing your abilities develop to see your finished product promotes such a unique and encouraging sense of personal achievement. This pride and enjoyment can then be used as a positive force to spread to your own community, boosting the morale of everyone around you.  

 

Why Activate Learning? 

These courses – from pottery and ceramics to woodwork, despite their differences in practice, are all very versatile in that it’s for everyone.  

Whether you’re a beginner or someone with a bit more experience, our courses are widely accessible. Our programmes are designed to fit around your lifestyle commitments, with evening, daytime and weekend options, across different locations and campuses all taught by experts in their field. 

Sign up to a leisure course and invest in your mental health and wellbeing today!