Not Going Out

Agoraphobia is growing. While it has roots in all different experiences, the Covid pandemic has intensified agoraphobia for many. One moment, everyone was being told to stay indoors and to see the outside world as an enemy. Now everyone is supposed to plunge back into getting out and about as if lockdown never happened. Not everyone adjusts as quickly as that. Lockdown was such an unreal and surreal experience that it’s gone deep with a lot of people. You might still be anxious about Covid, or you could simply have got so used to being indoors that going out now seems a big deal. And now that we can do so much online – even working from home – there’s less need to go out so that staying in becomes even more of a habit.

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This has all got me wondering how art might be useful for someone who has agoraphobia, whether since the pandemic or for a long time. If you have agoraphobia, you may find you have more time on your hands – time you might have spent going out. This is one way art can really help. Time can soon fly once you start drawing, painting, colouring or crafting, and you feel absorbed and immersed. This can become a refuge from the agoraphobia. While drawing or colouring, your agoraphobia might recede for a while as you focus on pen and paper.

While you’re enjoying art and craft, fear of going out isn’t an issue, because this is an activity you would probably be doing at home anyway. So there’s no pressure. If you have agoraphobia, pressure to go out (from yourself or others) can overshadow each day, whereas art can become a haven.

Are there other ways that art could help? It’s a positive to focus on, and it’s a constant, an activity you can come back to at any time. By absorbing your mind, art & craft can be very calming, easing any form of anxiety. If you’re trying ERT or other forms of therapy for your agoraphobia, art could help you set the therapy aside as you wait for the next time you’re seeing your therapist or supposed to try going out.

Loneliness can also become an issue for people with agoraphobia, as you may not be bumping into people outdoors, or able to attend events. Art can be a way to connect with others online from home, for example through a Facebook group or online art workshops on Zoom or Teams. Sharing an interest, you have immediate common ground.

There are so many different kinds of art and craft to try, whether you’re new to them all or have painted or sewn for years. This is also great stimulus.

Agoraphobia is obviously different for everyone. Is it about not wanting or daring to interact with other people? Is it about leaving the familiarity and security of home? Is it all the possible perils out there, imagining what might happen? Or does going out seem a hassle, so that you don’t feel you have the energy to get up and go? Maybe you don’t mind going out usually but struggle with particular settings, such as crowded spaces? Agoraphobia can also be connected to physical health issues like mobility problems or sight or hearing loss. Experiencing agoraphobia is not going to be solved by art, but in many different ways time spent trying art and craft can be liberating.

Maybe you (or someone you know) have agoraphobia, or other anxiety. It would be great if you’d like to join Think Art, my Facebook group sharing how art can help lots of mental health issues – just go to (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you.

Wide Awake

If art, nature and music can all boost health and wellbeing in the daytime, as they do, then why should they not also help insomnia? I think there are three ways they could help: as a way to spend time, as a way to try and still your mind to sleep, and as a tool to use to try exploring why you might struggle to sleep. Maybe these could all help you, or maybe you’ll respond more to one or another.

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Art could be a great way to pass time when others would be sleeping, but it also helps as a tool, a way to explore and express why you might have insomnia. Drawing to express your feelings about an issue might be worth a try – and drawing with an art therapist can be particularly helpful. You could draw a scene to visualize your fears, or draw symbols of how you feel about a situation, maybe a closed door or a high wall. Or use colours that symbolize emotions, like red for anger. Journaling, or the quicker form, bullet journaling, can be helpful tools as well – writing down how you feel instead of bottling up emotions – and art really adds to journaling, making your journal colourful and attractive to use as it adds new ways of expressing yourself on the journal’s pages. You could try doing any or all of this at night – before or while trying to get to sleep – or if you find this focuses your mind more on these issues, not less, then try journaling or drawing earlier in the day or evening and then try to set this aside.

Maybe music is particularly powerful because, while it creates all different moods, it can be specifically calming. Art might be too stimulating, making you less likely to feel sleepy, while you could listen to music in bed in the darkness, maybe slowing you down. Classical music can be calming, but I know that some people actually find livelier music, like dance music, can be more helpful when feeling tense. You could try different playlists or enjoy the serendipity of listening to radio and seeing what you hear.

Nature is one of the most calming and mindful tools we have, a great way to change perspective and let your mind drift away from the everyday. But obviously darkness and night time aren’t the best time to experience nature outdoors! There are other ways though: on a clear night, watching the night sky and tree outlines through the window can be calming. Technology helps as well. Now we can experience nature at any time of day or night through video or audio. I enjoy listening to nature’s sounds recorded online, on sites like Free Sound Library, where you can search for sounds like birdsong or sea sounds. Hearing these on their own, they have more impact than if I heard them outdoors, overshadowed by their setting.

So there are many different possibilities. Art could be important because it’s active and productive, but music and nature too have a part to play, maybe opening up a different perspective on life if you find that darkness and night time magnify issues, thoughts and fears. Sleep disorders have surged through recent years, especially since the Covid pandemic. I’ve recently heard about a new play called “Five Characters In Search Of A Good Night’s Sleep”, and a BBC documentary “Daisy Maskell: Insomnia And Me”. So using art, music and nature could be helpful for many people.

Have you experienced insomnia? Do you have ideas of how art, nature or music could help? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

A World Of Its Own

Taking part in No Mow May this year (although only in my back garden, so it’s hidden from view!) I’m enjoying seeing just what grows. There are flowering grasses which wave in the wind; dandelions growing taller than usual to reach the light; and some bush vetch and dove’s foot cranesbill add colour. It’s all so high now that I lose sight of a starling or a blackbird as they feed. I enjoy watching the garden all year, through the windows or while outside, but with No Mow May I’m seeing the garden in a new and wilder light.

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Gardens and the wildlife they support are also on my mind because next week is Garden Wildlife Week, an annual event as June begins. And I’m thinking not “only” how gardening for wildlife helps biodiversity, but more how it can boost our own wellbeing. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to take garden wildlife for granted. It seems so everyday, so commonplace, that it’s all too easy to lose that sense of wonder or to stop noticing what’s out there.

Some news about gardening and wildlife is positive. No Mow May itself has become a familiar initiative. All year, more people now try to leave a wilder patch in their garden or construct a bug hotel to encourage insects. As housing takes up ever more land, there’s growing awareness how important a part gardens play as habitat for so many different creatures. But there’s a negative side too, with more hardens being concreted over, used to park cars where there’s no other space – and with more urban living, lots of households have no garden at all.

For many people, gardening is or becomes integral to wellbeing. It’s fundamental, focusing on life and growth, light, water, earth and air, in touch with the elements. It can literally root and ground you. For others, a garden’s more important as open space, space to move, to see, to feel, to get out of their own four walls.

For garden wildlife, a garden is home, or part of a wider area they depend on, where they grow or feed or nest. They too will alter and shape the garden, as they pollinate, disperse seeds, prey on other wildlife or crowd out other plants. In the garden world there’ll be all kinds of cooperation and struggle. This in itself is eye-opening for us, creating a different perspective. What for us is a backdrop to life, is the world to a garden insect, plant or bird. See that world through their eyes, and a lot changes, growing or shrinking in importance.

The garden is a world of its own, a world to itself, but so too is every part and element of that garden: soil, every plant, every tree, even every stone where insects might shelter.

Could experiencing the garden as a world to itself make us more contented and less restless, even if only for a time? Could that time become a moment away from the everyday, space away from our wider world?

Community gardens create opportunities for people with no garden to experience this. Indoor or outdoor vertical gardening is also a way to use limited space more fully. For whether you’re in your own garden or in a communal space, a large expanse of garden or a tiny yard, I feel it’s the fleeting moments that matter, the sights and sounds.

Do you respond to the idea of a garden as a world of its own? Do gardens and their wildlife help your wellbeing? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Opening Doors

Yes, I go outdoors without thinking of creativity. I create without thinking of the outdoors. But when the two interconnect, it reinforces the experience. So Creativity & Wellbeing Week’s 2022 theme, Get Creative Get Outdoors, is a powerful one.

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Creativity and wellbeing combine the inner and the outer all the time. As I try to create, I’m expressing how I experience the world, how I see and feel. Creatvity becomes an outward expression, which is partly why it helps my inner wellbeing. #GetCreativeGetOutdoors mirrors this interplay.

Getting creative can literally get us outdoors, maybe to create then and there, maybe to take photos of a view or plants to draw or paint another time, or to gather garden flowers to use for craft. But it works the other way too. Getting outdoors can spur creativity, as a way to respond to what you see, to capture the moment or to feel part of nature. It’s a way to connect actively, not just observe, and this is what’s so helpful. I do like to walk and “just observe” as well, but I know I experience nature more closely if it gets me creating. This opens up a different perspective on life, and on what I see. I watch birds more closely than I used to do before I painted or drew them regularly: the way they move, the angle of their body or head as they dart onto the ground or look up while they feed or preen. I look at plants more closely as well now, at the shape of their flower petals or at the catkins I saw yesterday, fallen from an alder tree. So I get more absorbed y nature because I want to try to reproduce what I see, in art or craft.

Maybe you enjoy transient art, using natural materials outdoors, like stones or leaves to arrange on the ground. I recently heard about Sean Corcoran in Ireland’s Co. Waterford, who creates sand art using a rake and a stick on the beach, art he photographs before it is lost to the next tide. Or maybe you enjoy setting up an easel outdoors or just sitting on the grass to draw, close to the elements, come rain or shine? I never do more than an occasional quick sketch outdoors, but “the outdoors” follows me home, and spurs me on to create all the time. So in a way nature comes inside.

The #GetCreativeGetOutdoors theme strikes a particular chord with me because integral to Medley, my arts for wellbeing initiative, is an intersectional approach, combining art with nature and music where possible. I like to follow themes across all three: listening to songs or pieces of music, trying art or craft and thinking of ways to connect with nature, all on one theme, as I do in my regular Creative Ideas (mainly used by care homes) and also in other parts of my Medley work. A multi-sensory focus adds other layers. For example, when I ran a Birds A-Z art for wellbeing project last year, participants shared how they enjoyed not only the creativity itself but also discovering new bird species and learning more about nature. They found this absorbed and focused their minds more, and I agreed.

So art and nature feed each other, stimulate each other – and us, literally opening doors. Would you like to share any thoughts or responses? Are you trying to #GetCreativeGetOutdoors? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 or in Medley’s new Facebook group focused on art for mental health, Think Art – https://www.facebook.com/groups/244072321150998

Drawing Together

Maybe never have mental health and wellbeing been so openly shared and discussed as the last two or three years, partly spurred by the pandemic, partly by movements for change. So Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May) is in a very different position now – but as mental health issues have soared side by side with greater awareness, it is needed more than ever. The Week’s theme for 2022 is loneliness, with the challenge to “lift someone out of loneliness.”

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What a challenge! It’s positve, hopeful, literally uplifting. It’s all about sharing and drawing together, which is likely to work two ways, enriching life for someone who’s lonely, yes, but also for whoever lifts them out of that loneliness.

I’m wondering just how I might lift someone out of loneliness? Could it be about a one-off chat, hello or smile? These could all help unlock loneliness’s door. But maybe more will be needed. Somehow this implies being there for the long haul – lifting someone clear of loneliness, not just giving them a glimpse of a way out. And obviously it’ll work differently for different people: do they welcome commitment or shy away from it? Do they even have time to connect regularly with others, or do work, illness or family get in the way of this?

Most of all, I’m wondering how to use art, music and/or nature to lift someone out of loneliness? My aim in setting up and running my arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, is to share art, nature and music to boost wellbeing – and easing loneliness is clearly integral to wellbeing. So how do I, do we all, best make art, music and nature common ground to share to lift others, and each other, out of loneliness? I think diversifying, experimenting, trying different ways, is important – again because we are all so different and respond to different possibilities and opportunities.

What about connecting online, whether through Facebook groups or through group video calls? This may all seem fleeting and limited, but it’s a way to share, to respond, to connect. It’s a way to share an interest, to connect with others’ experiences and it widens up connection away from the local and the everyday to get to know people you’d never get to know any other way. And there’s little or no commitment.

As you experiment with art (for example) with others, it becomes a shared experience and adds other layers, as people go about the artwork differently, with new ideas. This may differ online or in-person, but either way opens up space to connect.

Art – or music or nature or dance or drama or writing – can motivate people to gather, either virtually or in-person, but it may not be the main focus. The opportunity to gather may be the most important. Combining a specific interest with the opportunity to talk, to share, maybe to support each other, becomes a way to enrich life on more than one level. Which is more beneficial, the company, the feeling of being in community, or the actual activity? Does this even matter?

There are so many questions! Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Creative Constancy

A new month begins, and with this new month begins The Age Of Creativity’s annual festival: sharing creativity with older people. Each year the festival has a specific focus, and this year it’s A Call To Action. This highlights how two years of pandemic have cast a long shadow, and how research has found that 25% of people aged 70 and over are unsure when – or if – their lives will return to normal. This strikes me as such an important focus, at this particular time.

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It’s an opportunity to recognize openly that real issues remain, while highlighting the positive role that creativity plays and will go on playing. Creativity is beneficial for all ages, but older people, who may well have more time, are particularly likely to respond.

While creativity may have changed over the pandemic, with remote initiatives replacing in-person groups, in itself it has remained a constant, and this has to be one of its greatest strengths. The world ,.may have turned on its head, but the music played on, paint and pencils remained. And so they do still, for many a haven in the midst the confusion and uncertainties of “learning to live” with Covid.

So why is the Festival’s focus so important and why now? As restrictions fade into the past and many people do return to pre-Covid lifestyles, it’s an unsettling time. Vaccinations have prevented many hospitalisations and deaths, but actual case rates have lately soared. People who have shielded, who are CEV (clinically extremely vulnerable) still need to be particularly cautious. Moreover, two years of restrictions and lockdowns have left their mark. Many people have lost confidence, so that issues like agoraphobia and social anxiety have worsened, as well as other forms of anxiety and depression.

All these issues face people of any age, but are likely to be most common for older people: partly because of severe Covid’s link to age, but also because the pandemic came at a time when their health may well have been declining anyway. Going out less and taking little exercise, many older people’s mobility has nosedived, which further erodes their confidence. There are other big issues too – transport is one, while long waiting lists for healthcare for chronic conditions, and fear of catching Covid while in the hospital or doctor’s surgery, are others.

For some, it’s all become a”perfect storm”.

So this is why I feel it is so important for the Age Of Creativity Festival to focus on this theme, at a time when it might seem people are trying to pretend Covid has gone away.

I hope that in creativity and wellbeing, remote initiatives will continue (alongside the return to in-person events) in a hybrid approach, so that people still have opportunities to take part from home. My arts for wellbeing initiative, Medley, will continue to run remotely. I hope digital exclusion will be less sidelined. I hope that people will recognize that those who struggle to return to normal life are not “just” nervous but have all kinds of real challenges and no quick fix. And I hope The Age Of Creativity Festival will open up all kinds of opportunities, in turn. Do have a look at the Festival’s website https://festival.ageofcreativity.co.uk/

Do you have thoughts or responses to share? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Up With The Lark

Are you a “night owl” or an “early bird”, “up with the lark”? It’s interesting how these expressions came into the language, relating our body clocks to nature, to day and night, light and dark. It’s no wonder that International Dawn Chorus Day falls at the beginning of May: as dawn gets earlier and earlier every day at this time of year, birds start to sing around 4 or 5 am. And with the dawn chorus at its height, this is also the time of year to try gokotta…

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Are you familiar with gokotta? Many people enjoy birdsong, but in Sweden this has developed to become an actual tradition: getting up early to hear the dawn chorus. Gok is Swedish for cuckoo, so the name derives from listening out for the first cuckoo. It may have developed as just another way to experience nature, to get out and about and enjoy the outdoors. But it’s gone on to become a wellness trend, and again, no wonder. It has it all: calm and quiet, connecting with nature, time out, getting away, being in the moment. It’s an opportunity to set aside whatever might be ahead that day and just be, just listen. Some people find it sets them up for the day, that they then dive into their usual routine feeling calmer or more positive. It’s become a tradition throughout May and on to Midsummer Day, 21 June.

Many of us relate and respond more to nature in spring than at any other time of year. New growth, buds and blossoms, warmth and sunshine (hopefully) – and birdsong.

It’s easy to think, however, that gokotta isn’t for us. It might only sound worth trying if you’re in some beautiful Swedish forest, away from it all, surrounded by birdsong. But there’s no need to go anywhere remote. Even in urban areas there’s birdsong to be heard, sometimes louder than in the countryside as it’s been found that birds sing more loudly to be heard over the traffic. Or you might think gokotta isn’t for the faint-hearted: yet it’s actually all about enjoyment. Gokotta tradition recommends you make a cup of coffee or tea to take outside with you, and find somewhere comfotable to sit while you listen. This isn’t about shivering in the rain, or striding off on a six mile walk at dawn. It’s being present, being in the moment. You could even try listening indoors, maybe through an open window.

And birds do sing all day, even at dusk – so if dawn really isn’t possible, you could try making a habit of settling down to listen at another time of day. You could also listen to recorded birdsong online if it’s impossible to hear any birds where you are, or so you get to hear more of a variety of different species’ songs. Just search “recorded nightingale song” – or any other species – online and see what you find. And if you do hear birdsong outdoors, try to record some to capture the moment. Try making listening to birdsong a regular part of your routine at this time of year – or just try it on International Dawn Chorus Day itself.

There are different ways to experiment with gokotta, but the essence is experiencing birdsong, ideally starting the day by absorbing nature’s sounds.

Do you enjoy listening to birdsong? Are you going to try gokotta? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Play It Again

Listening to Classic FM’s Hall Of Fame countdown over the Easter weekend, I thought how music has such different impacts on us. Familiarity, musical memory, is important – but so too is novelty, hearing new music. Maybe balancing the two is most beneficial for wellbeing? And now comes UK Music’s The Power Of Music report, published yesterday, highlighting the impacts music has on a range of issues from depression to dementia. One of its recommendations is for health and care staff to train in sharing music with patients: signalling just how important it can be.

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Every year Classic FM’s Hall of Fame is an opportunity for listeners to choose their three best loved pieces of classical music, then hear the top 300 counted down. Year upon year, some pieces climb higher in the poll, while others fall. That unpredictability draws listeners in. The top 10 sees some winners and losers each year (no Mozart this year, which is unusual) but at the very top of the chart Raph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending reigns supreme at No 1 almost every year. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 is pretty well its only rival.

So why is familiarity so important to us when we listen to music? Why do we respond more to music we know? Why do so many people choose one particular piece year upon year in the Hall of Fame?

Over time, as I hear a piece of music or a song again and again, it becomes familiar so that I recognise it more quickly, knowing where it’s going, remembering particular chords, motifs or harmonies before I hear them. With a song, I might remember some of the lyrics, maybe the chorus or refrain. Instead of wondering what the song’s about or what the piece of music will be like, I focus and respond more quickly.

Dementia research has highlighted how helpful musical memory can be. It’s usually formed during what are known as the “memory bump” years (before we hit 30). Hearing music from our youth can revive memory in later life, even in people who have dementia. As musical memory is one of the last forms of memory to be lost to dementia, this can be a very rare and precious way to engage people. Musical memory is also striking because we associate music with other memories: events and times when we remember hearing that piece or song, maybe for the first time. Maybe happy times, maybe sad, but by linking to another memory, the music becomes more deeply rooted and becomes part of our own story.

But I do think that hearing new music (new to us, or new altogether) is important as well – discovering the unknown, which is a great stimulus. Sometimes just hearing one new piece or song could unlock an entire new genre you might never have enjoyed before, or a new singer or composer. Classic FM’s recent series From Couch To Opera House In 7 Weeks, presented by Jennifer Saunders, has been a chance to get to know opera, a genre unfamiliar to many of us. And musical likes and dislikes change over time, so we might find particular music more calming or exciting now than we used to. What matters is going on experiencing music in all different ways. Another of UK Music’s The Power Of Music report’s recommendations is for older people to learn to play an instrument, which can help cognition. The music plays on…

What do you think? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Look, Listen And Learn?

Watching and hearing birds has to be one of the most calming ways to experience nature. So many of us respond to birdsong or to seeing birds fly. And there are all different ways to enjoy this: birdwatching, birding or twitching. Which might most improve wellbeing?

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Birdwatching is the most common. It’s one of the traditional hobbies which boomed during lockdown, particularly among Generation Z (16- 29) but across all ages. Birding ( a more committed approach, watching and waiting) and twitching (searching out rare species) may be less common but are life-enhancing.

Most of us simply drift into everyday birdwatching as more practicable. It can be relaxing and a great way to live in the moment. I’m not usually a spontaneous person, I like to plan. But I do enjoy seeing birds spontaneously – suddenly spotting a robin on a gate, or hearing rooks calling high in the trees as they move from rookery to rookery – where will they be today? This way I can get a sudden glimpse of nature in the everyday, so it feels immediate. I recently heard of a GP surgery which has bird feeders outside the waiting room windows, to calm patients as they wait for an appointment, watching the birds. I think I might feel pressured by birding or twitching, whereas this is more like letting go and just seeing what happens.

But it might seem less interesting. You might soon tire of seeing just a few species over and over again, whereas watching regularly or searching further afield could become exciting. Mental stimulus helps wellbeing and cognition, so birding and twitching could contribute to this by firing people’s imaginations. They could also absorb our minds more.

Birding can be all about learning through observation, and many birders record and note bird behaviours, flight, plumage or song. It’s about going deeper, taking nature connection to another level, so instead of glancing at a bird, you stop and observe, and gain more.

Challenge is integral to birding and twitching alike. If you succeed and get a great sighting of a rare or familiar species, there’s a real high, a great adrenaline rush. And birding and twitching create purpose – there’s always a goal, seeing a particular species, or trying to exceed a previous total for sightings, which motivates people to spend more time in nature, with all its many benefits.

They can give life real variety, never knowing what species you might find next. But there are also barriers to participation. Equipment like binoculars and telescopes can be expensive. Not many people have spare time to sit for hours in a hide, or to head off at a moment’s notice and travel quite a distance to see a rare species which has been reported somewhere. So it could become a frustrating hobby if you are limited by other commitments or travel issues. Twitching can be stressful, with time pressure not to miss an opportunity overshadowing the actual enjoyment. It can also set twitchers against each other as they vie for the most or best sightings.

All three ways of watching birds add another layer and can help us zone out and be mindful, one way or another. Maybe combining elements of all three could be the ideal. What do you think? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Colouring Calm

With National Stress Awareness Month starting tomorrow, I thought I’d focus here on colouring: a way many people ease stress creatively. Awareness of stress has surged, particularly during the pandemic, so awareness of ways of reducing stress, or setting cares aside for a while, is equally important now.

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And just as stress awareness has grown, so too has colouring. I remember thinking four or five years ago how colouring was booming when I saw some colouring sheets on a table in my local library for people to enjoy together or alone. And now it’s everywhere.

Colouring is a very flexible art form. Some people colour quickly, maybe smaller images. Others enjoy experimenting with more complex techniques, such as layering shades of colour using lots of colouring pencils. Colouring has moved on a long way over the years. It used to be mainly a children’s activity and there was usually a limited range of colouring books and styles to try. Now the possibilities seem endless. As adults have got into colouring, there’s been an explosion of different books and themes. There’s botanical art to colour, fantasy scenes and images from films or novels. Some colouring books tell a story as they go, so that you illustrate a narrative as it unfolds, and some form entire series of books. Then there’s a whole variety of different art media to use, colouring pencils, crayons, pastels, paints and colour pens.

Mindful colouring has become helpful to many people. Any art can be mindful. There’s something about focusing your attention on paper and pencil, or canvas and brush, or clay, or wool, that closes out the pressures that dog us and opens up a space away. For a time, it’s all that matters. But colouring has become particularly known as a mindful activity, a way to calm down and ground yourself. Is this because it’s specific, focused on colours and shades? Is it because it seems less of a hurdle to get started if the outline image is there for you to plunge in?

Colouring can be empowering, opening up art to people who don’t like drawing or find it too difficult to be enjoyable. With an outline there before you, you can concentrate on transforming it with colour. I’m actually the opposite. I really enjoy drawing, and find it far easier than painting with colour, for example. But I can still see how colouring is inviting. Then there are people who used to draw and paint but now struggle to visualize an image or to physically draw. Maybe they have some sight loss, or dementia, or find their motor skills have declined so that they can’t hold a pencil to draw exact lines anymore.

But colouring is absolutely an artform in itself: really skilful, it demands full attention and concentration, and it creates strong and beautiful images. You can follow the colours suggested by example images – or you can let your imagination fly and use any colour at all, placing your own stamp on the picture. As hand and eye work together, colour becomes image.And the person colouring can grow calm.

Do you enjoy colouring and find it eases stress? It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts on colouring – or any images! – in my Facebook group which explores how art can help mental health, Think Art (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you!