Some years ago now, when my children were in pre-school and primary school, I co-ran an after-school club for young children called “Art in French”. The idea was that the children would learn French through arts and craft activities as at the time there was no provision for learning a foreign language at the local primary school.
However, as the weeks went by, I soon realised that by the time they came to the club at 3.45pm, the children’s brains were overloaded with school work and that they really didn’t have much space or energy for learning a new language. They were, however, always really keen to try out the new arts & crafts activities each week.
It was a pleasure to watch them become completely engrossed in whatever they were creating – sometimes talking to themselves and sometimes working in complete silence. They would often arrive agitated and overstimulated from the day at school, yet leave in a more peaceful and calmer frame of mind. I believe this had very little to do with us as facilitators, but more to do with the power of creativity to ground them and help them to become calm and focussed.
The art became an act of mindfulness, I realised, keeping the children very anchored in the present moment for those couple of hours each week. Looking back, I have a hunch that these moments of mindfulness had a hugely positive impact on the brains of the children (and hopefully a few words of French slipped in as well!).
Our brains, as adults, are much more malleable than was previously thought. We are still able to create new neurological pathways throughout our lives.
Creative activities – in whatever form that may take for us as individuals – painting, cake-decorating, furniture restoration, writing, model making, knitting, playing a musical instrument etc etc – are a fantastic way of building these new neurological pathways because over time we tend to become fully absorbed in the activity as we’re doing them, ie fully present.
Occasionally people say to me, “but I don’t think I’m very creative”, or “I haven’t got a creative bone in my body”! If you’re one of those people, how about thinking back to when you were a child and remembering what gave you the greatest joy – pond-dipping, woodwork, singing – whatever it was could be an invitation to Re-Create that in your adult life!
I find myself coming back time and time again to the following expression:
How we live each day is how we live our lives.
If we are looking for more calm and contentment in our lives, then it’s up to us to factor in more mindful activities into our days and weeks (think of it as a simple act of self-care or kindness to self). Unlike when we were children, sadly no-one else is going to organise that for us!