Guest post by Rebecca Mellor, Founder of Creative Wellbeing and workshop leader at recent Building Wellbeing Together Weekend.
Our creativity, as a means of connecting with ourselves, others and the world around us, is vital to building a wellbeing-based society. Without it, we are destined to plough through the existing paradigm as it grows ever more obsolete and unresponsive to our needs. By embedding creativity and the value of creativity into our everyday lives and into the way our infrastructure works for us, we don’t just embrace an intrinsic human quality, we allow ourselves the opportunity to develop appropriate solutions to the myriad issues facing society today.
Creativity can so easily be denigrated, but what it represents is the highest level of thinking skill, according to Bloom’s revised Taxonomy of learning behaviours that was influenced by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Bloom’s taxonomy showed that the creative process enabled vital learning behaviours to develop; remembering, understanding, applying, analysing and evaluating. Creativity develops abstract, complex and critical thinking—tools for developing neuroplasticity, resourcefulness, problem solving and empathy. Furthermore, creativity allows us to imagine, synthesise and manifest alternatives that can serve our wellbeing.
We are all creative
It was in this spirit of understanding the deep importance of creativity that Creative Wellbeing was developed; a social enterprise that supports people through creative activity. Creative Wellbeing is inclusive to everyone and offers a range of activities to engage with. Over five years, it has become a cornerstone of many people’s lives, a friendly, skills-building forum in Cumbria and beyond, which has successfully secured funding for a range of projects to continue its provision.
A common thread which crops up all too often is that participants attending Creative Wellbeing sessions will immediately inform everyone that they are “not creative.” More often than not these attitudes have resulted from the harsh words of a teacher, family member or friend. Formative judgements can be engrained from early experiences and then stifle and repress engagement and exploration of the creative process. There are numerous audible voices all too quick to besmirch another’s creativity or fail to include it in social priorities, consigning it to the infantile explorations of primary school pasta pictures or otherwise to the pedestal of ‘high art’. However, it is in the rich and diverse territory between these counter points that daily creativity can become intrinsic in our lives and benefit us in countless ways.
Valuing the importance of creativity
You don’t have to look far to find current evidence that engagement in the arts and creative activity have multiple benefits. It was reassuring to see an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report in July 2017 that stated, “…arts can make a significant contribution to addressing a number of the pressing issues faced by our health and social care systems… arts-based approaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life.” We can only hope these words have not fallen on deaf ears and they catalyse some tangible change.
It is our responsibility to not fetishise our creative ability, not to undervalue creative process, consign it to child’s play. Nor should we cut off our creativity from our daily lives by canonising it to the echelons of a fine art circle, or to only those that can afford to experience it. Alienating individuals from their creativity ostracises them from their potential. Nurturing creativity—individual creative processing and creative thinking—enables that potential to become a core resource for a wellbeing-based society. Our creativity is an asset that we can use to build community resilience and reimagine models which reflect the needs, interests, aspirations and abilities of our society.
Diverse forms of creativity help us to thrive
Everybody’s creative process is different, each unique to ourselves and demonstrably worth fostering. Whether it is gardening, cooking, sewing, writing, performing, music, singing, reading, poetry, painting, drawing, making, simply daydreaming or all forms of other creativity, it is all worth cultivating. It is heartening to see the amount of community projects and grass roots organisations responding to the world creatively, in order to to establish frameworks which reflect our needs and connections with one another and our environment. We can flourish as a society and as individuals by embracing our creativity, and we can creatively build a future fit to thrive in.
Rebecca Mellor is an interdisciplinary creative practitioner/artist and founder of Creative Wellbeing.
Rebecca ran a workshop at NOW’s recent Building Wellbeing Together Weekend, and the top two photos used in this post are from that event.