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Creativity - By Subitha Baghirathan, CASS

How can art make a difference to your emotional wellbeing?

Human beings seem to feel a strong attraction to draw, paint or doodle. The oldest known paintings include cave art of a pig on an Indonesian island, estimated to be over 45,500 years old. Other ancient paintings include hand stencils and simple geometric shapes created at least 40,000 years ago in caves scattered all around the world; e.g. in Australia, China, India.

Perhaps creating this art improved our ancestors’ mood, just as many of us today turn to some form of creativity for our emotional wellbeing needs - whether it is colouring-in books, sewing or perhaps trying an on-line cartoon drawing course with your child. If you are similar to me, drawing simple stick people and threading a needle may feel skills just a bit beyond your grasp. However, even having a good look at art created by others improves our mental health. A study by University of Westminster showed that cortisol levels were lower in people who visited an art gallery during their lunch breaks. Cortisol is sometimes known as the stress hormone. Research by neurobiologist Semir Zeki proved that when participants looked at art - such as paintings, drawings etc. - dopamine was released. This is the chemical linked with feelings of enjoyment and happiness.

Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery are open again to the public. Visits are still free but must be booked in advance:

Being mindful - taking focussed notice of your surroundings, activity, bodily sensations etc. - is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing: little-book-of-WOW-A6-2016-version.pdf (

When we do something creative, we often become absorbed and mindful which gives us a break from ruminating thoughts, outside distractions, even the passing of time. As a result, any anxieties we may have are not dominating our thoughts, allowing some relaxation and reflection. Sometimes, art can communicate to others how we are feeling, or describe a previous negative experience in a more accessible way than using spoken or written language. This can help us be less isolated with our feelings and experiences, and build connections with others: another of the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

creativeShiftCIC sessions are for anyone wanting to improve their wellbeing and social interaction. They are particularly beneficial for people who are experiencing stress, low mood or depression; coping with pain; facing loss or change; or are socially isolated. These relaxed and friendly group art sessions, led by an experienced creativeShift artist facilitator, focus on creativity and wellbeing. Participants come along to explore and develop their own creativity and learn new skills at their own pace. No previous arts experience is necessary. There are in-person sessions at various locations across Bristol, including Central Bristol Children’s Centre, as well as via Zoom.

(Image of warehouse courtesy of Children’s Scrapstore)

Children’s Scrapstore on Sevier Street, St Werburgh’s is a reuse social enterprise dedicated to helping businesses divert reusable waste away from landfill to be used instead to improve art and play opportunities for children, young people and adults. One of their services is the ArtShop, now open again to the public as well as members. All their products are competitively priced, with all profits going straight back into Scrapstore. There is the offer of equipment for hire such as badge makers.

The shop is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, apart from a later 11 am opening on Thursdays. Booking ahead is not necessary. Their large warehouse of scrap items is for members to shop in. Membership is open to individuals and groups doing educational and/ or therapeutic activities with children, young people and adults. Scrapstore can provide play training courses, resources and consultancy to schools and other educational settings.

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