Using Art and Creativity to Boost Your Mental Health

Woman painting in an art studio

Many of us pursue artistic or creative activities because we enjoy them, but did you know that art and creativity also have significant benefits for our mental health? Forms of art and expression as widespread as writing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting or other forms of creative expression help to keep your mind healthy and happy.

Painting, drawing or moulding objects from clay has been scientifically proven to help people deal with trauma. Art helps us express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, whether that’s the news of a cancer diagnosis or the task of maintenance or reconstruction of our identity.

Art Therapy for Mental Health

The evidence of the benefits of creativity for mental health has led to the idea of art therapy. Any application of the visual arts in a therapeutic context can be considered art therapy. This means you don’t necessarily have to see a therapist to benefit from therapeutic artistic expression, as long as you are finding relief in the creative expression of your choice. You also don’t need to be a talented artist.

Studies indicate that art therapy is valuable for treating depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even some phobias. While you don’t need to work with a licensed therapist, doing so can offer advantages such as having someone to tailor activities for your needs, especially if you’re unsure how to get started.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy can be used to complement other forms of mental health treatment, providing a range of benefits including:

  • Offering an outlet for emotional release where you can express and let go of all your feelings and fears. Making art can help you process emotions like anger and sadness which you might be unable to express otherwise.
  • Improving your self-esteem by providing a sense of accomplishment.
  • Helping you discover and process the feelings that may have been lurking in your subconscious or are difficult to express.
  • Offering stress relief through a relaxing and enjoyable activity, which is beneficial for managing anxiety, depression and emotional trauma.
  • Creating art can also stimulate the release of dopamine. You don’t need to be a talented artist to benefit, just ensure you keep an open and honest mind.

Creative Writing

Studies found that expressive writing also helps people overcome trauma and manage negative emotions. Asking people to write about positive experiences and their “best self” is also associated with an increased sense of psychological well-being. Writing has even been shown to improve physical health, although it is not entirely clear why.

Physical Creativity

Creativity can also be a physical endeavour, as in the case with dance. This mobility brings additional benefits. The mental health benefits of physical exercise are well-documented as it releases endorphins, serotonin and other natural brain chemicals that make you feel good. Studies have also shown that creative activities like dance help people improve their self-esteem.

Need Mental Health Advice in Melbourne?

Pinnacle Health Group team of expert psychologists and healthcare providers are here to help you deal with workplace or general life stresses, anxiety and depression. We offer services in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

Is It Safe To Exercise While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman doing exercise on her bed using dumbbell

Regular physical exercise while pregnant offers a range of health benefits and can help prepare your body for childbirth. This includes better weight control, improved mood and maintenance of pre-existing fitness levels. Exercising during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as pre-eclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

However, it’s essential to modify or choose suitable exercises you can do while pregnant, as your body will respond differently. It’s also a good idea to consult your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional to determine appropriate exercises for you depending on where you are in the pregnancy, your fitness level and other individual factors. Book with Pinnacle Health Group for a suite of healthcare professionals to look after your health in pregnancy.

Keep it Light to Moderate

Be sensible about the level and amount of exercise you do. Overexerting yourself may be harmful to you or your baby. Don’t exhaust yourself. Your routine should comprise of light to moderate exercise. You’ll need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to. If you weren’t active before pregnancy, don’t suddenly take up an exercise that tires you out.

A light to moderate level of exercise should allow you to still be able to hold a conversation as you exercise. If you are out of breath as you talk, then it’s likely that you’re exercising too strenuously. Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

Exercise Tips

Try to keep active daily. For example, spend 30 minutes walking every day. If you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing. If you haven’t been active or are overweight, start with three to four days of light exercise spread across the week.

When exercising while you’re pregnant, ensure you:

  • Warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards
  • Avoid strenuous exercise in hot or humid weather
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids

If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is qualified, and knows that you’re pregnant and how many weeks pregnant you are.

Walking is a great exercise as it is a moderate aerobic activity but has minimal stress on your joints. Other good choices are swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact aerobics. Swimming is particularly good because the water supports your increased weight.

Exercises You Can Do While Pregnant

Aside from light to moderate aerobic exercises, the following exercises can also be beneficial for strengthening your body so it can better handle the pregnancy:

Stomach-strengthening exercises

Start on all fours with knees under hips, hands under shoulders and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight.

Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, allowing your head to relax gently forward as you curl.

Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the starting position. Take care not to lock your elbows or hollow your back, which should return to a straight position.

Do this slowly 10 times, ensuring your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully. Only move your back as far as you comfortably can.

Pelvic tilt exercises

Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall.

Soften your knees then pull your stomach towards your spine so your back flattens against the wall.

Hold for four seconds and release. Repeat up to 10 times.

Pelvic floor exercises

Sit and lean slightly forward with a straight back.

Squeeze and lift the muscles as if you are trying to hold in urine.

Hold the squeeze as you count to 10, then relax for 10 seconds. If you can’t hold for 8, aim to hold for as long as you can.

Repeat as many as you can, about 10 squeezes. Repeat the whole thing 3 times. Keep breathing while exercising and try to avoid tightening your buttocks.

What to Avoid

Avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back, especially after 16 weeks, as the weight of the baby presses on large blood vessels and can reduce blood flow. Don’t exercise in situations where you might get too hot. Your body’s temperature is slightly higher when you are pregnant, meaning intensive exercise can cause your core temperature to rise to an unsafe level for your baby faster than you might expect. Drink lots of water, wear lightweight clothes and only exercise in cool, well-ventilated areas.

Health Checks in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple Melbourne locations. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.

Exercise For Depression, Dementia and a Healthy Brain

Man sitting on gym bench suffering depression.

Exercise helps to prevent and improve a wide range of health conditions, from high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis to depression, anxiety and dementia. Exercise provides many more benefits than just aerobic fitness and muscle strength. While losing weight and improving your physique is great, most people exercise because of the enormous well-being it provides.

Regular exercise helps you to feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night and boost your overall mood. Like mental stimulation, physical activity is essential for your overall brain health, even ensuring you better retain memories and maintain cognitive skills as you grow older.

Exercise and Depression

The benefits of regular exercise for preventing or managing depression is well-documented, although the precise reasons are not clear. A combination of factors can contribute to the development of depression, including biological factors (such as family history, serious medical illness or drug and alcohol use), early childhood experiences, personality factors, recent stressful life events and other personal factors.

Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by:

  • Releasing feel-good endorphins, serotonin and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
  • Providing a healthy way to cope and manage your feelings, as opposed to drinking alcohol, using drugs or dwelling negatively on how you feel.
  • Taking your mind off your worries, so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.
  • Gaining confidence, purpose and a sense of accomplishment through setting and meeting your exercise goals.

Doing 30 minutes of physical exercise three to five days per week can help. These can be easily accessible activities such as walking, jogging, bike riding or lifting weights at home. You don’t necessarily have to participate in formal exercise programmes. However, participation in sports and exercise classes can provide the additional benefit of social interaction that can also help some people with depression.

Exercise and Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent. Exercise for dementia patients can even slow further deterioration for those already with cognitive problems. Exercise protects against dementia by stimulating your brain’s ability to maintain old connections as well as establish new ones.

Aim for around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. This should involve a combination of cardio exercise and strength training. High intensity exercise is best as it increases brain blood flow more than continuous exercise workouts. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training are also good for maintaining brain health. For those over 65, adding two to three strength sessions to every week can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by half.

Psychology and Health Advice in Melbourne

Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of services including psychology, physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga and more in multiple locations in Melbourne. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.