We often consider creative people to be those who produce a piece of art, whether they be painters, writers or musicians. However, more and more people are starting to realise the health benefits behind discovering their creative side; and these health benefits extend into daily life at work and home.
Debra Longin discovered the health benefits of creativity after experiencing a major burnout from pushing herself too hard in her professional life. After 20 years of a commercial interior designer, and countless hours spent inside over 100 local and international businesses (with a “fly on the wall” view), Longin realised the connection between stress and corporate life, recognising that there was a need to find ways to positively impact well-being, both mental and physical, in the workplace.
Like many of us experiencing a period of mental and physical burnout and, to some extent, a level of depression, Longin went looking for and began experimenting with hobbies that focussed on her wellbeing, including art. She became aware of just how strong the connection between creativity and wellbeing can be. So strong was that connection, she started researching, training and learning more about creativity and wellbeing.
In 2017 Longin created MAW Creative with some straightforward aims:
- To bring art, mindfulness and wellbeing together into one workshop
- To provide something that is easily enjoyed in the workday (as opposed to weekends or after work)
- Design the workshops to utilise the calming effect of art on stress levels
- Create a safe place for people to experiment with art without judgement or expectation
Essentially MAW Creative was based on the idea of “lunchtime yoga” – Longin wanted busy high performance business people to be able to focus for short periods of time regularly, to help maximise the outcome.
So did the workshops work? What were the outcomes?
Longin has noticed that by the end of the session most people are amazed at what they have been able to create and how relaxed they are feeling.
After running a series of 4 to 8 weekly workshops in a row for corporate customers, Longin conducted longitudinal surveys with participants to get an idea of how they are feeling after the session. And results were really interesting:
- 49% reduction in overall stress levels
- 80% reduction in stress levels for those who were at maximum stress level
- 56% reduction in stress levels for those who engaged in a 4- or 8-week session in comparison to 49% for those who only participated in single sessions
When asked how the workshop made them feel, it was clear that art is a great way to lower stress levels for better overall wellbeing. We’ve included some of the responses below:
“I think that it was an amazing time to relax and stop thinking about anything else.”
“It’s so good to concentrate on something after all that’s going on (at work).”
“Learning to let go and let the watercolour dictate is difficult – but excellent.”
And it is that last quote that really describes what creativity is about – learning to let go of what you currently know as “right” and finding a different perspective. In the workplace, allowing yourself and your team to be creative can generate new and alternative ideas, new ways of solving problems, and being able to communicate with other team members a lot better.
If you’re finding that your wellbeing is starting to suffer, introduce some creative practices to your both your personal and business life. You don’t need to paint a masterpiece but you do need time to focus on something other than work.
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