Of Mice & Men’s Aaron Pauley: Why creativity is important for mental health
“I was reading something a long time ago that said if you look at humans, we’re part of the hunter-gatherer archetype, and part of that involved exercising creativity in the sense of learning how to make fire, build a shelter and about agriculture. We evolved because we were creative. But, as we’ve progressed into a society with greater technology, more and more things are done for us and we consume more than we create, and that causes something of an existential crisis in the modern human being.
“I think when you’re in the process of creating something it gives you a sense of purpose. When I go on tour I have a sense of purpose – I’m there to play music and entertain people – but then I get home and decompress and find myself asking, ‘Well, what’s my purpose now?’ I’m sure anybody in any walk of life, from time to time, finds themselves asking that question and staring down that existential crisis.
“But when you’re being creative your purpose is to complete that which you set out to create, and achieving that milestone brings with it a sense of accomplishment. For example, I might sit down at my laptop and say, ‘I’m just going to make a cool little 30-second song,’ and I’ll find an obscure plug-in or a cool synth sound and I’ll play around with it for a while. Just completing something like that brings with it the feeling of achieving something, it brings a reward that isn’t necessarily monetary but creating something from nothing is satisfying nonetheless, and I don’t even necessarily keep everything I create. It also makes me feel like I’m living life, rather than life is happening to me and I’m just experiencing it.
“I suffer from depression and anxiety, and being creative also takes me out of that. I almost feel bad calling it a ‘distraction’ because it sounds like it devalues the process, but it is, because I’m focused on what I’m building, what I’m putting together. Likewise, if I’m spiralling out of control I can make sounds inspired by what I’m feeling and, through doing that, I feel like I’ve gotten it out of me. And I should add it doesn’t have to be music. Be creative in whatever way works for you – doodle, write, paint something, even creatively rearranging your furniture can have benefits! Just do what works for you.”
If you’re struggling with your own mental health, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone you can trust – a friend, a family member, a teacher, a doctor or a counsellor. Find more information on how to look after your mental health at the Mental Health’s Foundation.
And if you need help immediately, we recommend these organisations:
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