Commentary – ‘Creativity saves lives’

Pearl Lorentzen

Last week, I attended a Rural Mental Health Network (RMHN) conference. One of the speakers said that, “Creativity saves lives.”
I agree. My emotional equilibrium is heavily dependent on creative expression. My favourite types of creativity include: writing, playing the piano, painting, colouring, crocheting, cooking, and gardening. I can even imagine ways in which a creative solution to an emergency could save a person’s physical life.
However, the main focus of this statement is metaphorical. For many people, creativity makes life worth living. It is one of the tools we use to flourish emotionally, when we are languishing. It can be a bright spot of hope when everything seems overwhelming. It can also help us make sense of complex issues or difficult experiences.
One of the speakers put collage postcards around the room. Each of us went around the room and stood by one that spoke to us in that moment. Some people chose the same card for different reasons. However, the artwork spoke to each one of us.
She then told us about why she had made them. She had made them in response to social upheaval. Creating art helped her deal with her emotions and thoughts, and once they were created she was able to use them to spark conversation.
This is just one example of how creativity can be used to make connections between people.
I love learning, but I have to be careful not to overload my brain!
The conference was for community animators with RMHN. An animator is a community member whose goal is to spark and bring to life (animate) a movement toward a more mentally healthy community where they live in rural Alberta.
I am one of three animators for Slave Lake.
Part of the training and the goal of the network is to work in a mentally healthy way. This was evident in the conference.
The conference included half-hour breaks between sessions and an hour lunch break. There were also two ‘Brain Breaks.’ These were optional sessions which focused on relaxing with fellow animators instead of learning. The first was a craft and the second was herbal tea making. I signed up for both, because generally at a conference I can make it to about half of the sessions without completely collapsing.
Along with creativity, I find rest very important. When I used to work in jobs that required manual labour, sitting down was my favourite part of lunch and coffee time. Eating is very important, but the change from moving my muscles to being still was also important.
As a reporter, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer or sitting while doing an interview. Therefore, my favourite part of my lunch breaks is the walk home. I also like walking to interviews whenever possible and walking to and from work.
Human bodies and minds are not made to do the same thing over and over again. Hence repetitive strain injuries and brain overload.
Of course, sometimes we do need to push through to get things done, but I’ve been learning over the years to work in physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy ways.

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