The start of a new year is a good time to review our lives and for some of us, making New Year’s resolutions is a helpful way to make positive changes. Although exercise and nutrition tend to feature prominently, there is a growing awareness that mental health cannot be separated from physical health. ‘Wellbeing’ is a frequently used term and it may be helpful to re-visit some evidence-based definitions: a 2011 report by the New Economic Foundation and supported by MIND, listed 5 ways to Wellbeing:
- Connect (with people, in real life)
- Be active (physically, within your own ability)
- Take notice (taking time to look at what is around you)
- Learn (whatever your age or ability, learn something new)
- Give (participate in social and community activities)
As a passionate advocate for improving access to the arts, I think that participation in any art form can go a long way to meeting most, if not all the 5 ways to wellbeing. Casting aside fears of not being good or ‘gifted’ enough to do something like singing, drawing, dancing, acting, etc., is often the first step towards starting a transformational activity. Once there, the enjoyment of the art form takes over and the opportunity to learn with others provides an added level of connectedness. Additionally, many community arts activities are not expensive to join and many are free or low cost, so opportunities are not linked to ability to pay.
The report on ‘Creative Health Report’ by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group, details how the arts and arts therapies have helped improve lives for children, young people and adults of any age. What is clear if that once people engage in an art form, they keep to it for life as a source of joy and wellbeing. So, at the start of 2018, if you happen to be looking for a way to make positive changes to your life, do consider the arts. As well as being hugely enjoyable, they offer a lifelong support for wellbeing and, as arts therapies, also make a vital contribution to improving mental health.