This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 and its theme has been body image - how we think and feel about our bodies (#bebodykind). Research recognises a significant amount of us experience low mental health as a result of poor body image. This means we the lack confidence to do the things we really want to and regularly experience low self-esteem affecting our quality of life.
One way we can positively improve our own body image is to shift how we think and talk about our bodies. Once we move away from what it should or shouldn’t be and instead start to appreciate all that our bodies can do, then we can shift the perspective away from negative criticism and move toward gratitude and respect for all the amazing things that they enable us to do.
We here at the Isle of Man Arts Council believe strongly that the arts have a significant role to play when it comes to appreciating what our bodies can do. It is also one of our key ambition points to 'Champion the arts and culture as fundamental to our wellbeing and sense of place.' (See our The National Development Strategy for Culture and the Arts 2017-2027).
As the week comes to a close, we thought it important to reflect on all the ways our creative community is currently paving the way forward when it comes to using the arts to promote positive mental wellbeing and thereby reducing the stigma surrounding mental health in general.
"Mindful Mann is the Isle of Man's first major wellbeing festival. It aims to inspire and transform the ways in which we experience ourselves, our Island, and the world. There will also be a programme of yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes, talks from local wellbeing heroes, workshops, live music, and kids activities. With themes ranging from Spirituality to Mental Health and Community Wellbeing, Mindful Mann 2019 promises to be an inspiring day out, promoting positive change, community spirit and an inclusive worldview."
We couldn't write this article without mentioning Janet Lees who this week launched her first book, 'House of Water' to great success. Themes of mental health feature heavily in the book and Janet is a tour de force in the conversation about the arts and mental health on the island as well as further afield. As an award winning poet, photographer and creative writing facilitator, Janet runs regular workshops at various venues including The Hub and Earroo Nane. Janet speaks openly about her experiences with mental health in her written and visual work and we can safely vouch the profoundly positive effect on those she has run workshops for.
The Government Staff Choir won the Guild in 2018
There is a whole heap of research that shows the benefits of singing for our mental wellbeing. It not only improves confidence and self esteem but also fosters community relationships when you sing with others for example in a choir or community event. We are very proud of our Government Staff Choir who meet once a week to sing for an hour. Have you thought about having a staff choir in your workplace?
Find out more about the Government Staff Choir by contacting Martyn.Cain@gov.im.
Swing in the Isle are a Swing Dancing Group who hold regular workshops and dance socials.
Dancing is proven to significantly promote good health and wellbeing. It combines healthy physical activity, the engagement of the creative spirit, the promotion of emotional expression and encourages social interaction. Moving our bodies doesn't need to be long punishing sessions at the gym. There are lots of ways you can move your body that are enjoyable to you such as dancing, particularly to a genre of music that appeals to you. There are lots of dance groups on the island you can get involved with from traditional Manx Dancing to the more retro Swing Dancing.
Learn a new creative skill has multiple benefits to our wellbeing. In fact you can read about all of these benefits in another article we did on the topic: 10 reasons you should take an art class. There are many places you can get your creative juices flowing such as the IOM Drawing Club and workshops at Artreach Studios to name only a few.
Join our What's On Where Facebook group to find out about new workshops and events or post about your own.
There are so many amateur dramatic groups on the island that you can join. Acting can significantly promote positive self esteem and confidence as well as a great sense of achievement after completing a performance. As with joining any group, being a part of a like-minded community of people brings a sense of belonging, offers opportunity for connection and reduces isolation.
To learn more about how to get involved with the amateur drama on the island then we recommend contacting the Manx Amateur Drama Federation (MADF) via email@example.com.
One particular drama group that we are proud to support are Manx Gateway Drama who are a welcoming and fun social club for people with learning and physical disabilities aged 16 plus. Find out more about Manx Gateway Drama.
Image by Catharine Devine
I'm sure we don't need to tell you about the instantly positive effects that simply being out in nature has on our mental wellbeing. As a UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man partner, we are committed to cherishing and preserving the island's beautiful natural landscapes. We also believe that when it comes to art and nature, they go hand in hand. It may sound cliché but nature really can be a profound source of inspiration when it comes to creative pursuits. Many artists on the island find inspiration figuratively and literally from the island's many beautiful locations when creating their work. We did a recent interview with artist, Colette Gambell about how important art can be to raise awareness of environmental issues. Read 'Raising Awareness Through Art' here.
Read more about UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man.
Whatever your creative preference, we feel sure that there is something for everyone. Simply by taking advantage of the many opportunities that our island's creatives have to offer, you can reap the many rewards that creativity has to offer particularly in relation to improving body image and mental wellbeing.
Author - Grainney Sheard
Arts Engagement Officer
If you'd like to chat to us more about funding and how you feel your project could meet our wellbeing strategy goals then please don't hesitate to get in touch with us on 01624 694598 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.