How creative do you think you are? Were you one of the kids at school who was told you were ‘useless at drawing’, ‘uncomfortable in drama’, feel as if you have ‘two left feet’? Has this left you feeling that the Arts are not for you? Let me challenge your thinking!

Art and creativity is for everyone.

Art and creativity is not just for the young and the term Arts encompasses so many areas including:

Visual and performing arts – crafts, dance, film, literature, music and singing, as well as the culinary arts and gardening.

The cultural field which embraces concert halls, galleries, heritage sites, libraries, museums and theatres.

Architecture, design, planning and the environment is also recognised as part of the Arts.

A recent All-Party Parliamentary Group report ‘Creative Health – The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’ sets out compelling evidence and examples of best practice demonstrating the beneficial impact of the arts¹. This Report was the culmination of 2 years of research which included evidence from patients, artists, arts administrators, academics, policy makers and health and social care professionals. The outcome of the Report is a call and challenge to ‘think differently, to embrace art-based approaches and to collaborate across boundaries. Quite an ask… however, when looking at examples of some of the findings, it is evident that the Arts already make a significant difference to health and wellbeing.

There are over 49,000 amateur arts groups in England involving 9.4 million people equating to 17% of the population.

Music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia.

Art therapies can reduce depression, anxiety while increasing resilience and wellbeing.¹

So what is holding us back? Lack of time is often a reason given for not undertaking a hobby or interest however this should be challenged as the evidence clearly demonstrates the important benefits of doing something you enjoy. Another is quite simply the fear of stepping out of our comfort zone – however if we dare to take the plunge the benefits to our wellbeing could be significant.

A recent Research Report by the National Trust (NT) ‘Places that Make Us’² provides some compelling evidence of the value to wellbeing of places that have meaning to us. The researchers used innovative imaging technology as part of their approach. They found that from childhood and beyond we all have memories of loved ones or places that have deep meaning and it is these places, which provide calm and space to think. These places have a powerful physical and mental affect which has a positive impact on our wellbeing. People capture these special places through drawing or photography whilst others commit them to memory and may visit regularly enjoying the outdoors and associated wellbeing benefits. However,  these findings will  come as no surprise as quite simply, being somewhere we love makes us feel good!

Given that we are living longer we need to look after our health and wellbeing and physical activity is a key part of this. There are now so many opportunities to join classes at local leisure centres, gyms, community halls etc. Dance is just one of these activities that is suitable for all ages and with the popularity of programmes such as ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, dancing has seen a revival. There are some good examples of groups that are aimed specifically at the over 55’s with one such group,  the Sage Dance Company which was founded in 2010 by former First Soloist with the Royal Ballet Company, Simon Rice. Sage is a unique, community, classical ballet-based performance Dance Company for those aged 55 and above. One of the Trustees and dancer, Maggy Pigott is an inspiration having been accepted by Sage at the age of 65. When speaking to Maggy, she says that’ If I can dance anyone can, as I only discovered this passion in my late 50s.  It changed my life, improving my physical health, giving me a whole new circle of friends and new challenges. But most of all it has provided so much joy to this stage of my life. My mantra is ‘ You don’t stop dancing because you get old. You get old because you stop dancing’. There are so many different styles, there’s bound to be one you love whether it’s ballet, belly dancing or Bollywood“. Another interesting dance example is ‘Project X’ which is about changing the conversations and perceptions around dance within the African Diaspora in Scotland. There is something for everyone if dance is an activity that appeals to you.

The challenge of lack of time in our 24/7 world is very real and it will take effort to create some space so you need to be realistic and committed however the benefits will far outweigh any initial challenges. We are living longer and taking care of our health and wellbeing now is a sound investment for the future with the added benefit of being fun! Some tips on creating space for you:

Be realistic about the time available – for example do not commit to an activity twice a week when in reality you will struggle to find the 1 hour needed for one!

Choose something that really appeals to you – not something you feel ‘you should’ do! If you do not enjoy it is a waste of your valuable time.

Going to something new alone can be daunting so if this is a barrier for you try and find someone to go with you even just for the first time.

Have fun, laugh and be involved and your sense of wellbeing will undoubtedly improve.

 

References

1.Creative Health – The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. All Party Parliamentary Group

http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/

2.Places that Make Us – Research Report. The National Trust.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/documents/places-that-make-us-research-report.pdf

Useful Links

The National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk

Sage Dance Company www.sagedancecompany.com

Project X https://www.projectxplatform.co.uk/

Age UK – Inspiring Ageing Joyfully Article https://www.ageuk.org.uk/lambeth/about-us/news/articles/2017/ageing-joyfully/