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Taking part in a creative activity can boost mental and emotional well-being – report

Members of a senior choir. Photo: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock Engaging in creative activities such as singing in a choir can boost well-being. Photo: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock
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Engaging in creative activities for even the briefest time can boost well-being and help people cope with the stresses of modern life, a new study has suggested.

Commissioned by BBC Arts, it represents the first time that researchers have explored how creative activities, such as acting in a play, singing in a choir, or playing an instrument or painting, can help manage emotions and mood.

It found three main ways in which people use creativity as coping mechanisms to control emotions.

These include using culture to distract the mind in order to avoid stress, to give the mind contemplative space to reassess problems and make plans and to offer a means of development by building self-esteem and confidence.

The findings showed that people get emotional benefits from just one session of creativity, and that ongoing interaction can develop the effects.

The BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test is the largest piece of research of its kind – the findings were drawn from a study of almost 50,000 people – and was carried out in partnership with University College London.

The research claims that trying new creative activities is especially beneficial, while cultural participation also offers a particular boost in the face of hardship or stress.

UCL senior research fellow Daisy Fancourt, who led on the work, said: “This study is the first to show the cognitive strategies the brain uses to regulate our emotions when we’re taking part in creative activities. While previous studies have shown the strong link between creative activities and emotions, we’ve not been sure about how this has been happening.”

The research is being published to coincide with the BBC’s Get Creative Festival, a UK-wide celebration of creative participation, which begins later this week.

Lamia Dabboussy, editor of BBC Arts, added that she hoped the research’s results would “give audiences the inspiration and confidence to take up a new creative hobby”.

The study is being published as interest in the connections between arts and health continue to grow, with practices including arts on prescription being explored across the UK.

Matt Hancock: ‘Arts on prescription should be at centre of UK healthcare system’

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