Creative Activites and Mental Health

I’m a huge advocate for using creative outlets to keep the brain active and healthy. This is a great post by my friend Jess over at Health Yourself Out that goes into how creativity can boost wellbeing and all round happiness.

Expressing yourself creatively can give a great your mental health a real boost . For some people, creativity comes naturally. Maybe they’re artistic, can play an instrument or have some other talent or hobby they enjoy. For others, however, the thought of being creative is daunting. Maybe because it is so often associated with a certain ‘type’ of person, or with having a really strong talent or skill. This isn’t the case, however! Anyone can be creative.

True creativity isn’t necessarily about a means to an end. You don’t have to produce a work of art or compose a successful piece of music (although finishing a project is quite satisfying in itself), but simply enjoy the process of creation. Ruah Mental Health (linked above) lists three “simple ways to get started” for those who are daunted by the idea of being creative:

  • Make a creative space – a physical space in your home, where you can express yourself creatively; do creative projects; and collect and store items for your creative activities.
  • Schedule creative time – create a weekly space in your diary for creative activity; 2 or 3 hours is a good start.
  • Join a creative class or group – follow your interests, learn more, and connect with people who share the same passion as you.

These tips are great even for seasoned creatives. Factors like stress, anxiety and depression can really drain your motivation for tasks you once loved dearly. Getting back into it requires taking often difficult steps to shrug off these low moods and force yourself to make a start again.

Creativity also doesn’t have to be limited to activities ‘typically’ associated with creativity: things like art, music, drama, dance etc. For those who are looking for something different, here’s a list of some other creative hobby ideas!

  • Sewing, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, embroidery
  • Pottery
  • Home brewing
  • Cooking
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Gardening (suggested on one of my other posts!)
  • Building models
  • Do It Yourself
  • Craft (very trendy at the moment; sites like Pinterest can have lots of ideas)

What do you like to do in your creative time? Or do you feel like you need to make more creative time in your life? In that case, what would you like to start doing?
via Creative Activites and Mental Health.

Figure out your triggers.

For a lot of people, anger and aggression isn’t something we feel 24/7, but rather it’s something that is triggered. It’s important to recognise what your personal triggers are so you can address the root of the issue. Knowing what triggers you personally will help you avoid or diffuse the situation in the future.

Some people might find that they only act aggressively when they’re intoxicated – if you find yourself getting into bar brawls or relationship battles whilst inebriated, you might want to lay off the hair of the dog. Cocaine and amphetamines, like alcohol, can increase irritability and decrease common sense. When intoxicated, you become more provocative and willing to express your thoughts and feelings without thinking about them first. If you are prone to anger, then being drunk or high will likely bring out the worst in you.


Hate is a chronic form of anger. Hate is not a sign of mental illness on its own, but psychiatrists, sociologists, and religious leaders would probably agree that it is rarely healthy. Persistent hate usually reflects a failure to utilise more constructive coping strategies to resolve angry feelings. Hate is often combined with prejudice, such that you hate individuals solely because of their membership in a larger group. Prejudices arise out of faulty thinking, attitudes such as generalisation, entitlement, resentment, and an unwillingness to consider evidence that challenges your beliefs. Nevertheless, nearly everyone seems to have the potential to develop prejudices.

You may find that being around certain people triggers feelings of anger. Personal relationships are the most fundamental things in our lives, and its important to surround yourself with people who bring light and positive energy into your life. If you find yourself continuously being angered by specific behaviours and people in your life, it’s best to either attempt to communicate your problems with them calmly, or limit your contact with them. The notion of “always being there for someone” is moot if it’s having unreasonable and unhealthy impacts on you as an individual. First and foremost, your physical and mental health comes first.

Mind over matter.

Feelings of anger essentially stem from negative thinking. Trying to eliminate negative self-talk is beneficial in stress management, and in turn, emotional stability. Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations – positive thinking means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.

Positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head every day; these automatic thoughts can be positive or negative.


You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you’re creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship, for example. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
  • Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
  • Be open to humour. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and a healthy diet is proven to positively affect mood and reduce stress.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you.

Life imitates art.


Art therapy provides stimulating and creative experiences that promote the release of serotonin or endorphins. These chemicals are natural neurotransmitters that can improve mood, dampen pain and regulate sleep. High levels of stress and inactivity due to illness and hospitalisation can reduce overall levels of these chemicals. Art therapy creates a distraction that allows patients to think of something positive instead of focusing on their ill-health. It also gives them something they can control. Creative projects are designed to have a successful outcome for you, and consequently boost your self-esteem and confidence as well as help you to relax. Some benefits of using art as an emotional and creative outlet can be:

  • Giving voice to experiences and feelings not easily expressed in words
  • To relax and de-stress
  • Develop self-awareness and self-esteem
  • Work on social skills
  • Manage behaviours or symptoms
  • Solve problems by looking with a different perspective


Music can be one of the most effective therapeutic tools to help you get in touch with your emotions: whether this means listening to classical music to calm your nerves, going to a punk show and releasing some tension, or creating your own music. Youth health and wellbeing organisation Tune In Not Out is an amazing resource that promotes using music to support mental health. Check out their website where you can create and share videos, music playlists, and more to help you deal with everything from stress, anxiety, and depression to sexual health and partying.


The opposite of anger is not calmness, it’s empathy. – Mehmet Oz

Trying to get through to someone who is angry or acting irrationally can be very frustrating. It’s also easy to dismiss their anger or write them off. However, at work and in life that is not always an option.

There are some ways to diffuse someone’s anger and bring them back into a more rational frame of mind. So here are a few simple things anyone can do to calm a situation down.

Don’t get worked up

Remain calm. When people are angry, don’t respond with anger. This will make them feel their anger is justified and simply fuels further anger, escalating the situation. Your goal is to calm them down.

Take a deep breath. Remember the person is not angry at you, but often with something completely different. You’re just the recipient of their free-floating hostility. Keep calm and they’ll work through the anger. They could just need someone to listen to them. Calmly hear them out and that could be all they need.


Put yourself in their shoes

You never know what is going on behind the doors of someone else’s life. This could be the worst day of their life. They could have gotten some terrible news, or they could be dealing with a major life change. Listen to what they’re saying.

Try to put yourself into their situation for a just a moment. Everyone has bad days and on those days we have to talk to people; this could be one of those days. Empathy and compassion for others is the key to understanding them, their reactions and responses.

You’re here to help

Life is rough and we’re all in this together. Show them that you care. We all have days where we need someone to reach out and help us. The cause of anger or irrational behaviour can be stress or sadness about something unrelated.

Empathise with the person and let them see that you care. You feel their pain. You understand the anger and you’re here to help them out. They have a problem and you’re here to fix it.

There is no better feeling than when someone is taking care of you. I’ve seen anger melt away when the person knew I was there to solve their problems and make things better for them. Just letting people know you’re there to support them makes the biggest difference.

Find what works for you.


One of the best ways to deal with anger in the long-term, is to find a healthy outlet that allows you to blow off steam. There are heaps of different avenues you can try, everyone’s different so what works for you mightn’t work for others. Here’s a couple of things you can try out:

  • Exercise and sports. Numerous worldwide studies have documented that regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels. The effect may be twofold: physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain, such as endorphins. Sports psychologist Elizabeth Tindle says, “we’re talking about human involvement and happiness, and this comes from involvement in some sort of team or group, from feeling a sense of belonging to something. It could be a sports team, it could be other things, but I think sport plays a big role I think in our lives for health, including mental health.”
  • Relation techniques, e.g. meditation. Anyone can practice meditation. It’s simple and inexpensive, and it doesn’t require any special equipment. Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
  • Music. Engaging with music can have hugely therapeutic benefits. Professor of Neurology, Prof. Levitin explained: “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics. But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”  
  • Creative outlets. This can be anything from writing, painting, to playing an instrument. Immersing yourself into creative energies aids in expressing your emotions in a healthy, productive way.
  • Counselling and therapy. Often, short term individual therapy with a psychologist, counsellor or therapist for anger management includes closely examining your triggers for anger, teaching you to recognise when you are starting to become angry, and providing you with the tools to contain your anger.
  • Seeking other’s support. Just spending time with and talking to close friends and family about what’s on your mind is an effective way to help relieve stress. Connecting with others is essential for a fulfilling lifestyle.

Anger as your ally.

Anger is sometimes unfairly assumed to be a wholly dangerous state. But when under control, it’s possible to have constructive outcomes.


Anger is activating and mobilising. When you’re angry, you feel as if you’re doing something about what’s triggering your stress. You feel there is a response you can make, a way of expending energy toward resolving the distressing situation. It can get you to take action and do something about the problem.

“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” – Malcolm X

Anger is invigorating. The “e” in emotion stands for “energy.” Anger produces an instantaneous surge of adrenaline, which causes your pupils to dilate, your heart to race, your blood pressure to elevate, and your breathing to accelerate. If you’re really angry, even the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! Your liver responds by releasing sugar, and blood shifts from your internal organs to your skeletal muscles, causing a generalised state of tension. You’re energised and ready for action. Remember, though, that emotions are short lived; they come and go. So, it’s imperative that you strike while the iron is hot and use the angry energy to your benefit before it evaporates.

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It’s a very, very, mad world.

When you’re predisposed to feeling enraged, it may seem like every little thing in the world is designed to tick you off. Blood sucking mosquitos flying around you, sitting in traffic jams, even the sound of other people’s chewing is enough to get your blood racing.

Anger gets the mind and body ready for action. It arouses the nervous system, increasing the heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow to muscles, blood sugar level and sweating. It also sharpens the senses and increases the production of adrenalin, a hormone produced at times of stress. At the same time as these physical changes, anger is thought to affect the way we think. When we are first faced with a threat, anger helps us quickly translate complex information into simple terms: ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for instance.

When you feel these physical effects, there are some quick & simple steps you can take to calm yourself down:

  • It’s a cliche, but the three (or more!) deep breaths thing really works. It makes your whole body settle itself, and importantly, buys yourself some time before you go leaping into (a potentially regrettable) action.
  • Counting to ten.
  • Remove yourself from the circumstances, if possible. Walk away until you’re calmer and ready to approach the situation again. Going in with a clear mind is a huge help.
  • Talking yourself down & positive self-talk. Really trying to step outside yourself, and think rationally about the situation you’re in. A lot of the time, we get angry because we feel like we’re not communicating properly, like we’re not being heard. Talking yourself through what exactly you mean to say is imperative to effective communication. Here’s an infographic to help you out:


Ease up on yourself.

”Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” – Mark Twain

Prolonged anger is an inherently self-destructive emotional state. It is often symptomatic of underlying anxiety and depression, and when suppressed, can cause havoc upon your personal relationships, affect thinking, habitual, and behavioural patterns, and manifest into a variety of physical issues. Chronic (long-term) anger has been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, migraines, heart problems, and skin disorders, amongst others. One study found that people highly prone to anger are three times as likely to have a heart attack or fatal coronary heart disease as less angry people. Socially, anger is commonly linked to social issues of crime, emotional and physical abuse, and anti-social behaviour.


So it follows that the best way to address any anger issue is through looking at the cause. Where is it coming from? Why do things affect you in a different way, than it does for others? For some people, anger is a response to a traumatic or unsettling experience. Others are just wired that way – their “fight” reflex overtakes in the fight-or-flight response. Anger is also a common response to stress and grief. Once you’re able to understand the roots of the issue, it makes it infinitely easier to start making changes to adapt to better your quality of life.

So what’s the solution? Should you cork up your anger or regularly blow your stack? Experts say neither. Whether you hold it in or explode in a rage, frequent feelings of intense anger may pose the same health risks. The key is to make your anger constructive. Researcher Professor of Psychology, Dr. Charles D. Spielberger PHD, says that the first step is self-awareness. Don’t allow yourself to fly into a rage. Instead, be conscious of your anger. Stay in control. It’s the only way to figure out exactly what is making you angry. Once you can identify the real problem, you can try to solve it rationally instead of getting pointlessly furious. If you’re angry with someone, talk about it in an assertive, but never aggressive, way. If a certain situation sparks your anger, learn how to prepare for it — or better yet, avoid it — in the future.