Can creativity help tackle climate anxiety?

Here at Poems by Post we like to think we have curated a fairly relaxed day-to-day environment. With the satisfying clacking of Erika’s typewriter keys filling the office, there isn’t much that we can’t get over in the end.

However there is one thing that I just can’t seem to shake, something that leads me to fall out with flatmates over the recycling and lights being left on all night — the environment. Climate anxiety is a comparatively new mental health concern, and put simply it is the sense of fear, stress and worry around climate change¹. Which, let’s be real, is totally justifiable when our news and social media feeds are chock-a-block full of flooding, drought and wildfires thanks to global rising temperatures.

Photo by Li-An Lim

But this blog post isn’t here to add to that steaming pile of climate catastrophe, it is here to try and help! While walking along the stony shore of the UKs south coast with Pier2Pier, a Brighton beach cleanup group, trying to fight my climate anxiety with direct action, an idea came to mind. In one of our previous blogs we talked all about the benefits of creativity on your mental health (check it out it’s really quite great), so why am I ignoring creativity when trying to deal with one of my largest mental strains?

In this blog we have compiled a short list of creative activities you can do that are both beneficial to the environment, and that will help reduce those stressful and intrusive thoughts that come with climate anxiety.

Mudlarking

Now bear with us a second. When I first googled this term I was treated to black and white cartoons of little gremlins scurrying amongst the grime of the River Thames. Really though, it just means to comb through a river bed looking for items of value². Traditionally this means broken pipe or horse teeth that turn out to be of historical significance, but by looking out for things that have cool shapes or bright colours you can get creative with this form of litter picking.

Photo by Jasmin Sessler

Litter picking on its own is a pretty mundane activity, trust me I get it. It does however tackle one of the major contributors to climate change — pollution. For goodness’ sake we have a garbage patch in our oceans so big that it expands from Japan all the way to the west coast of America³.

See, picking up a load of trash is only the first half of my point here. It is what you do with your haul afterwards that really has the mental health benefits in our opinion. Recycling what you find and challenging it into something beautiful and expressive is a relaxing, calming activity as it forces you to focus on something positive⁴.

Check out for example the groovy Beau Bottletops and their inspiring recycling art, using Brighton Beach as their pallette, and bottle caps as the paint. We are lucky enough to have been treated to our very own commission which decorates our office and reminds us every day to keep being uniquely creative.

Artwork by Beau Bottletops

So get out there, see what you find, and see what you can create!

Green Spaces

While litter picking is GREAT for looking after our natural spaces, we are sadly lacking in such environments in our society as we continue to urbanize. Natural areas of vegetation are of course hugely important for our environment as they keep our CO2 levels in check⁵.

Now creativity comes in all sorts of forms, and we believe that gardening can be creative too! Being surrounded by nature is really good for you, with healing and calming effects, studies have shown it’s so good for your stress levels it literally reduces your heart rate⁶. If you can combine this with all the benefits that come with being creative it’s a double win really. If you don’t believe us, you definitely haven’t seen enough gardens, why not have a Google of The Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, or perhaps check out this Fine Gardening article on gardening as an art form⁷ (link at the bottom of the page).

Gardens in the Bay, Singapore. Photo by Lita Ruza

Upcycle Therapy

The phrase ‘fast fashion’ has become increasingly cemented in our shared vocabulary, referencing the rapid production of inexpensive clothing that leads to overconsumption, harmful environmental impacts, and poor working conditions for garment workers⁸.

With each year I am inspired by a friend who turns an ugly old dress into a sexy new skirt, a cousin who manages to give the entirely family handmade crocheted gifts for Christmas, or an Etsy seller whose creativity in making and repurposing clothes means they can earn a living from the comfort of their own homes. This is what this third section is about, getting creative with fashion while also fighting the environmental effects caused by the fashion industry.

When you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, why not head to the back of your wardrobe and see what you can do with that old pair of jeans that you haven’t worn since 2007. One project I found moderately easy with my VERY limited sewing skills was making face masks out of old clothes — personally I found old socks to be particularly easy to convert. But you haven’t just got to sew, you can paint or embroider — Brightly has a lovely inspirational list if you wanted to check it out⁹.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Retail therapy is a thing of the past, let’s bring in Upcycle therapy instead!

Architecture

Making physical creations like rubbish little clay sculptures (I’m bad at clay, ok?) has always been the most rewarding creative pastime for me. Recently I came across an idea that allows me to continue building my unstable sculptures while also helping the planet, and this idea is that of the Bug Hotel.

The main idea of these is not to get a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor (although my bug hotel is definitely getting 5 stars by the time I’m done with it!), but to consider the importance of looking at the context which surrounds the creative projects you wish to create. Bug hotels can be made out of natural materials (yay to compostable art), can be a decorative garden ornament once completed, a relaxing and rewarding task while you make it, and will help protect the hard-working pollinators in your garden.

This is especially important as we are forever urbanizing as a human species, and so forever destroying insects’ natural homes. Plus I’m sure your local bees will compensate you generously in the form of some lavish flower pollination. It’s a win-win really. The RSPB has a step-by-step guide on building one if you fancy it¹⁰.

A bug hotel. Photo by Daniel Krueger

At Poems by Post we do our bit to be as environmentally conscious as we can, with all of our materials being recycled or sustainable sourced. Climate anxiety is a tricky one to get to grips with, but we hope this selection of creative projects gets you not only inspired, but also helps you release a little bit of that stress knowing what you are doing is benefiting the world around you.

If the things on this list aren’t exactly what you’re looking for right now, but you still fancy a dose of creativity to calm your climate anxiety, why not check out Poems by Post? We can send you a parcel bursting full of creativity right to you door at poemsbypost.org.

1 Mental Health UK, What is ‘Climate Anxiety’, and what can you do about it? https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/what-is-climate-anxiety-and-what-can-you-do-about-it/ (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

2 British Heritage, Mudlarking on The Thames — in hunt of treasures in London. https://britishheritage.com/history/mudlarking-thames-treasures-london (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

3 National Geographic, Great Pacific Garbage Patch. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/ (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

4 Community Reach Center (2016), Using Your Creativity to Help Reduce Anxiety. https://www.communityreachcenter.org/blog/using-creativity-help-reduce-anxiety/#:~:text=There is evidence that engaging,alleviate symptoms associated with depression (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

5 Neograss (2018), 7 Ways to help the environment in your garden. https://neograss.co.uk/7-ways-help-environment-garden/#:~:text=Not only do plants, shrubs,the air, via oxygenic photosynthesis (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

6 Select Health (2019), 10 Reasons Why Being in Nature is Good for You. https://selecthealth.org/blog/2019/07/10-reasons-why-being-in-nature-is-good-for-you (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

7 Fine Gardening, Gardening as an Art Form. https://www.finegardening.com/article/gardening-art-form (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

8 The Good Trade, What Is Fast Fashion, Anyway? https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

9 Brightly (2021) 7 Easy Ways to Upcycle Your Old, Worn-Out Clothes. https://brightly.eco/easy-ways-to-upcycle-old-clothes/ (Accessed: 14/03/2022)

10 RSPB, Build a bug hotel. https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/nature-on-your-doorstep/garden-activities/build-a-bug-hotel/ (Accessed 14/03/2022)

Originally published at https://www.poemsbypost.org.

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