Stressed out? It might be time to get creative

Creative hobbies could be the ultimate stress busters. Here are five ways artistic endeavours could give you a mental health and wellbeing boost.

If you think hobbies are only for people who have loads of spare time on their hands, chances are you might be the one who needs a creative outlet.

Research suggests artistic pursuits are an excellent way to manage and reduce stress.

So why aren’t we all madly painting, potting or performing our way to a happier, healthier life?

A 2023 study called the Vista Creativity Report suggests while 60 per cent of Australians with a hobby recognise the stress-busting benefits, more than half say they don’t have the time to do it.

It is a struggle that habit change expert and wellbeing coach Dr Gina Cleo would like to see more Australians overcome.

“We all spend so much time in our mundane routines — in fact, about 70 per cent of what we do is done in the same place, at the same time, basically on autopilot,” Dr Cleo says.

“Doing something creative helps us to break out of that routine and engage a completely different part of the brain.

And research shows that increases our wellbeing and boosts our problem-solving skills and innovation.”

5 benefits of unleashing your creative side

Stress management

Psychologist Meredith Fuller believes creativity helps us to manage stress because it gives us control.

“Often, stress comes from a feeling of being out of control, and I find the antidote to that is the power of self-expression,” she says.

Broadens perspective

Creative hobbies also open us up to new possibilities in life.

“If you also knit, draw, paint, sing in a choir, then you are more than just your job or your relationship, or whatever it is that is causing you the stress,” Meredith says.

Boosts mental health

For Sally Rehfisch from Creativity Australia, the organisation behind With One Voice community choirs, expressing yourself creatively is extremely beneficial for mental health.

“Safe spaces where people can come together and create art without worrying about making mistakes or facing judgment are incredibly valuable,” Sally says.

“In creative spaces such as community choirs, people are welcome to express their individuality.”

Calms anxiety

Art therapist Karina Grift says if you’re feeling stressed, upset or depressed, spending time doing something creative can improve your mood and calm your anxiety.

This is because creative hobbies force us to be “in the moment and mindful”.

“It is incredibly empowering,” Karina says.

“From an art therapy perspective, there is a strong evidence base for the mental health and wellbeing benefits of creativity.”

Challenges your thinking

Dr Cleo says it is not so much what you do, but the fact that you are doing it, that is important.

“Honestly, it could be anything — listening to a new podcast, cooking a new dish or taking up archery or fire-twirling — as long as it is something you enjoy and that challenges you in a different way,” she explains.

Adds Karina: “Using art to help people work through their emotions makes sense to me — it’s why I’ve always found art so beneficial.”

 More on the health benefits of hobbies

Written by Dimity Barber.