Getting creative with a mental illness

by Renee Greenland

I am a creative thinking coach and no expert in post natal depression but from what I have read I believe it can be an overwhelming place to be at times. Having emotions which are difficult to express and feelings you may not want to share.

I’ve had clients who have had depression who swear that being introduced to creativity helped them immensely. But often, especially when we are depressed, we put barriers in our way to trying something new.

So I have written this post to dispel some of the myths around being creative, and to show some of the benefits.

Oh and just so you know all you need is ten minutes a day to feel the difference.

Creativity is not just about painting and drawing

Being creative is just about thinking about things differently, playing, trying out something new.

It can be cooking, gardening, choosing your clothes, styling your hair, writing or just plain doodling. Creativity is letting your mind wander while doing activities you enjoy . . . and yes finger painting does count as being creative!

Creativity is not about the finished product

Art was created thousands of years ago on cave walls, not to show great they were as painters but to express themselves.

Creating without judgement is one of the best ways to express your emotions.

Thinking of creating as play, to have fun, to express yourself, not caring what anyone else thinks – not even having to show it to anyone else – just for yourself is the most freeing thing you can do.

If you are feeling depressed and there are no words to express how you feel, making marks, using colours and just getting it out, without it having to mean something can help a lot.

Creativity doesn’t have to mean anything

The act of creating is purely to engage the right side of your brain – this is the love based side of your brain – the side which will tell you all of the possibilities, the dreams, playful, positive thoughts – this is where your cheerleader lives! And … who among us couldn’t do with a little more love?

The left side of the brain (which we have traditionally used most) is the side which has all the to do lists. The side which tells us all the reasons we can’t do something, because it’s the left’s job is to keep us safe. But no one ever died from colouring in, cooking, sewing, painting, writing or flower arranging – as far as I know!

So by exercising the right side a little more you balance the left and right voice perfectly – we can all benefit from keeping the negative voice in check.

Creativity doesn’t have to be beautiful

Firstly it is ok to create ‘ugly’ things. If that is how you are feeling, then how wonderful would it be to get that out of your mind and onto paper? What a relief!

We all have ugly thoughts at times. I often get my clients to scribble out their ‘ugly thoughts or emotions’ let them out safely – then we take away the thoughts power by just observing them without engaging in the emotion. We may even make fun and play with them, and often we burn them and let them go. “Better out than in”, I say!

Thoughts gain power when we add emotion to them, and we start listening to that negative voice in our heads. The Inner critic can run riot if left unchecked – I wrote a blog about this a while ago you may find interesting. There is an exercise in there to name your inner critic. Give it a go it really works.

Creativity doesn’t have to be a lone exercise

Depression can leave us feeling alone so if you have time to get out and meet other ladies in person, maybe adult colouring get togethers, knitting circles or doodle catch ups could be the ticket.

Or you can join online creative communities. I’ve made so many great friends from around the world that way.

I have a Facebook Group for ladies, who think they are not creative, to share things they find interesting, colourful or fun and also for support and community. I am sure there are other groups out there.

So how can you find the time to be creative?

People think that to be creative you need to spend hours and hours at it.

What if I was to say you only need to spend 10 minutes a day to start feeling the benefit?

Maybe you could try colouring in? Or start a Pinterest board of things your like?

I have a FREE 7 day creative self-care experience which will get you thinking more creatively, having fun, feeling inspired and all you need is ten minutes a day. Plus all the materials you need are probably already in your home.


Angela Murray is a life coach, artist and specialist in the art of play.
“I coach women in using creative play as a tool to design their home and work lives on their terms.”
You can contact Angela on +64 2102 706 498 or

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