By Laura Pathe
When you get married at Grassmarket Centre it’s your special day, but you are also supporting all the work Grassmarket Community Project does during the year. So here’s a small snapshot of why we build creativity and wellbeing in to our members’ lives.
Grassmarket Community Project is dedicated to taking an innovative approach to creating an oasis of support away from the stress of everyday life, for those who are most vulnerable. Grassmarket provides a community and a sense of belonging for people, which is a vital component when promoting better wellbeing and mental health.
Grassmarket responds to the human need to have a purpose in life by providing the participants with skills that aim to improve their quality of living. Specifically, through creative mediums such as writing, photography, cinema, theatre, cooking, textiles and woodwork, Grassmarket promotes the importance of social interaction, communication and wellbeing. Creativity has incredible value in society and more recently in mental health services, as it is now known to improve well-being and self-confidence. Many studies have been conducted to prove that artistic practices are instrumental in helping people discover a personal sense of meaning; it gives them the confidence to find what it is that defines them as an individual. When experiencing difficulty with mental health, having the opportunity to be within a supportive and nurturing environment, where you can find time to rediscover a sense of purpose, is incredibly valuable. Grassmarket is a place where you can do just that.
Researchers Wendy Teall and Tamzin Forster compiled a body of evidence to consolidate ‘The Importance of Creativity for Health and Wellbeing’, as their title would suggest. They draw upon a wealth of research to back up the growing awareness of creativity as a direct cause for improved wellbeing, listing examples of how it improves self-worth through its therapeutic qualities. They begin by describing creativity as ‘a set of skills, an attitude to life, the ability to have original, meaningful ideas that often cross over disciplines and connect previously separate information. It’s a vital ingredient of being human, leading to growth, change and progress at individual and societal level’. Therefore, it seems undeniable that such a process would create a more positive outlook and potentially alter someone’s perspective on life for the better. This theory has indeed been proved by countless studies. One, in particular, is called ‘The Relaxation Process’, which refers to how art can release ‘feel-good’ endorphins in the brain, much like what occurs during physical exercise. This study goes on to suggest that that merely viewing art can have the desired effect, even without the need to participate in hands-on creativity. At Grassmarket, the regular showings of films at the Picture House would certainly have this effect, as it is a space where you can sit back and enjoy moments of creative escapism. Grassmarket is, without doubt, an example of a place that is putting these theories into practice and creating the evidence to back up the many studies that have been done.
Creativity requires an emotional connection, that is certain, but it also demands a practical outlook on what is being made. This blend of emotional awareness with problem-solving abilities is what makes the process so valuable. By using both the right and left side of the brain simultaneously, that person is stimulating their sense of self to a heightened level. By doing this you ‘become part of the present moment’ and engage in a process called ‘Flow’. Flow is when a person participates in a challenging activity that draws upon their previously acquired set of skills, meaning that they are using their abilities with a purpose in mind. The fulfilment this gives a person leads to internal gratification, helping them to discover what it is they enjoy doing and to reach a better awareness of their sense of self. The combination of ‘The Relaxation Process’ and ‘Flow’, give a person a more developed awareness of wellbeing and both a practical and emotional perception of their individuality, as well as developing valuable life-skills.
Indeed, among a few of the life-skills that the arts can give to a person are emotional literacy, communication, social connectedness and stress management, which are also all fundamental values that govern the Grassmarket Community Centre. The work that the participants get stuck into when learning to make Grassmarket Tartan provide practical textiles skills, as well as a place to develop communication, connectedness and eventually experience Flow. This project is just one example of how Grassmarket is giving back to the community – it is providing new skills in the creative sector that can improve wellbeing. There is no doubt and plenty of evidence to back up these claims, in the form of scientific research and most importantly the responses of the people that Grassmarket help on a daily basis. Grassmarket is putting theory into practice and giving the most vulnerable individuals in society a chance at self-development through art and community. So, if you feel like expanding your sense of self-worth then don’t hesitate in paying us a visit. See you soon!