GP’s are now making community referrals for art activities, creative writing, Mindfulness, volunteering, group learning, and sports, etc., to facilitate wellbeing and recovery. ‘Social prescribing’ is becoming ever more important as we become increasingly aware of holistic approaches to wellbeing and embrace the idea of the ‘whole person’. Being conscious of our own physical and mental wellbeing over our lifetime requires self-awareness and a personal investment in our physical and mental health.

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“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

One in four people at some point in their lives will suffer from mental illness and holistic approaches to recovery can help people unpack the underlying causes of their suffering. PTSD and emotional trauma can become trapped in our energy field and our physical body at the cellular level. As an Art Facilitator in the community and Lecturer in Narrative Writing for recovery, I can see the transformational potential of art and creative writing to make a real difference to people emotionally and as lifelong pursuits. Purposeful activity, after all, is so much better than zoning out in front of a TV or spending too much time on social media.

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In the spirit of ‘being the change’, I created C4W – www.creativity4wellbeing.com, which is a free creative resource with a wellbeing theme. It allows anyone to get ideas for their own creative projects and for key workers and Occupational Therapists, for example, to create their own session plans for their clients.

My inspiration to create this website came out of my own battles with depression and anxiety over the years and the lack of readymade lesson plans on the Art and Design teacher training course I took back in 1996. There is no doubt in my mind, from the feedback I have received so far, that art teachers, primary school teachers, and SEN teachers will benefit from this platform and adapt it to their own needs. I have also been interested in neuroplasticity, and how art, creative writing, music, and lifelong learning can help to create new neural pathways.

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The C4W site is also designed to expand our understanding of art in a practical way, promoting ‘learning by doing’. People often have the mistaken view that because they cannot draw, doing art is pointless. They may have also been judged on that basis by an art teacher at school. I do believe that art teachers are more open-minded now, and C4W is designed to give people a wide range of art activities and projects to try. Let’s face it, any understanding of Art History, with the avant-garde, contemporary art, and art installations must give people food for thought, so I have added an Art History section.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
- Pablo Picasso

I would like to see teachers infuse wellbeing in their art lessons with journaling. Given the increase in mental health issues and cyber-bullying among students, it seems clear to me that we need new approaches to re-imagine our communities, with a focus on meaning, belonging and the cultivation of kindness. I would like to share some of my ideas with you with that in mind:

  • Combining art, creative writing and journaling is a powerful combination for self-expression, personal growth, and catharsis.
  • Group work is an obvious way to increase a sense of belonging, inclusion and peer support.
  • Art in the community and in nature (e.g. creating a nature trail with sculptures.)
  • Art with Mindfulness (e.g. designing Mandalas). This can lead to discussions about Mindfulness, its benefits and introducing sessions in schools and colleges.
  • Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) is the Japanese practice of spending time Mindfully in nature, which could be combined with land art, using found objects.
  • Art in hospitals is also recognised as speeding up the healing process and costs by reducing the time spent in hospital. It can also be a positive focus in palliative care.
  • How about combining art and mythologies with the Hero’s Journey and the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP)?

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I have thought a great deal about wellbeing and happiness for many years. There is no doubt that we need to take a pragmatic approach to our own health, but our own wellbeing will never hinge on the pursuit of our own interests alone. Deriving wellbeing from helping others might fly in the face of the neoliberal ‘greed is good’ mantra, but the simple acceptance that ‘what goes around comes around’ made me realise how damaging this is to ourselves and each other.

Pablo Picasso said that “the meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” and Henri Matisse stated that “the essential thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer.” Both these points, for me, go to the heart of the creative process and where it can lead. Perhaps creativity is a form of ‘alchemy’ for the human spirit, sensitising us to our feelings and the feelings of others. What could be more precious?

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Useful Links

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Richard Potter artist

AUTHOR: Richard K Potter, 
BA Hons PGCE MA - Creativity for Wellbeing 
I am passionate about how we can make creativity a lifelong pursuit for people. For me, art is naturally therapeutic and a key catalyst in the process of unfolding, towards a happier and more balanced world. I am an artist, art facilitator and visiting lecturer in Narrative Writing at the University of Brighton, with the desire to promote holistic approaches and Mindfulness in education, the NHS and our global community.

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