Art Club Meets Uni Researchers

Friday 8th July was our first co-design meeting with our art group participants and the research team, brainstorming what we’d like to measure and how to measure it.

We were given funding from the University of Plymouth’s Get Involved Awards to research and measure our impact. An Action Based Evaluation of Mindful Art Club (MAC) in Plymouth is being conducted by Dr Helen Lloyd, Emma Sprawson, and Peggy Melmoth, with two researchers; Abbie Scott and Rachel Mullee.

Read more: New Collaboration With Plymouth University will Measure the Difference we Make

New Collaboration With Plymouth University will Measure the Difference we Make

We have recently been awarded funding from the University of Plymouth’s Get Involved Awards to research and measure our impact. An Action Based Evaluation of Mindful Art Club (MAC) in Plymouth will be conducted by Dr Helen Lloyd, Emma Sprawson, and Peggy Melmoth, with two researchers; Abbie Scott and Rachel Mullee.

The awards were launched this year by the University’s Research and Innovation team – designed to bring communities and researchers together to find sustainable solutions to local problems. 

Research will be conducted from June to December 2022, with case studies produced to share the learning of the research and its impact for the community. A gala ceremony will then follow at the University on 7th December. 

We will be involving our service users, volunteers and the organisations that commission us, in the process of designing the research project.

Read more: Plymouth University Get Involved Awards

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[Photos] Mindful Art at the Beach

Do you struggle to pay attention to the present moment?

Does your mind wander when you’re at a mindfulness class?

Are you avoiding indoor public places because of Covid-19 risks?

Outdoor mindfulness could be the answer you are looking for!

Before March 2020 we were comfortable running our mindful art groups in cosy pubs, cafes and community venues around Plympton and Plymouth. However, after lockdown restrictions were eased this summer, we started running small outdoor groups, and discovered this adds an extra dimension of fun to mindful art club.

A review of scientific research has indicated that the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness in nature may be considerable. (Mindful.org March 2020)

You won’t be surprised to learn that being in nature boosts our health and well-being, and that combining the outdoors with mindfulness can lead to even better results.

As the Autumn weather approaches we are going to have to take our regular groups indoors, bearing in mind Covid-19 safety guidance, such as social distancing and limits on numbers. But keep an eye on our Facebook page because if the weather forecast is good, we may be able to take some spontaneous trips outside, like this small group we held on Wembury beach recently.

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How to Reduce Stress and Increase Confidence

Want to improve your mental health, make new social connections and learn some fun new ways to cope with stress?

It could be time to try Mindful Art Club!

Some of the issues being tackled in our community mindful art groups are social isolation and poor mental health. We address these problems by using creative activities to make it easier for clients to engage in meaningful conversations. Often when depressed or anxious people are put in a position where they have to talk about how they feel, it’s the last thing that they want to do. In our art groups they have a place where there is something slow and steady to do, and there is no pressure to talk about anything. We find in our groups that as people begin to trust each other, they open up about how they feel and get support and identification from the rest of the group.

Two of the most common mental health issues are anxiety and depression. Research shows that the activities of mindfulness and art can be more effective than antidepressants and counselling. Author of ‘Lost Connections’, Johann Hari, believes that to help people change their lives they have to have a connection with other people, to find meaning and purpose.

Being in a supportive group builds up self-esteem and confidence. We do a different art project each week, and trying new activities has been proven to be good for our wellbeing and emotions, (in a survey by BBC Arts 2018). The same survey said that nothing beats taking part in art classes that involve face to face social interaction for people’s mental health.

So, our community groups give people the opportunity to share their feelings, practice mindfulness, create art, relax and chat. Mindful art club:

  • 1) Improves mental health
  • 2) Improves social connection
  • 3) Teaches new skills.

Try mindful art club for free by checking out our online group.

How Art Can Help You Cope

Even a small amount of creativity can help you to cope with modern life, according to recent research by BBC Arts and UCL. In the largest study of its kind, with almost 50,000 people taking part, the research explored for the first time how creative activities can help us manage our mood and boost wellbeing. (Creativity Can Help You Cope – BBC, accessed 10/08/20)

The Evidence

A Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis report on arts and health references over 900 publications, including 200 reviews, covering over 3000 further studies.

Arts interventions, such as singing in a choir to improve chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, are considered non-invasive, low-risk treatment options and are increasingly being used by Member States to supplement more traditional biomedical treatments.

The Health Evidence Network synthesis report

What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?

In July 2017 the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing published a report of their two-year inquiry into the role of the arts in health and wellbeing.

It found that the arts can keep us well, help us recover, and help to meet some of the major challenges currently facing health and social care. Therefore the arts can help to save money in the health service and social care services. You can read the short report here:

Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

But How Do We Know That Mindful Art Club Works?

People who come to Mindful Art Club feel more supported, experience empathy, feel mentally calmer and more peaceful; they make new social connections and feel happier and more confident. They also learn to use mindfulness as a self-help tool, and learn to use art as a self-care activity.

We know these things because we get verbal feedback during the “check out” at the end of each session, and occasionally we ask our clients to complete written feedback forms. These simple questionnaires measure the client’s perception of their difficulties, including mental health, physical health, loneliness, self-esteem, and experience of art and mindfulness. We also gather some qualitative evidence, in the form of individual case studies.

Find out more by coming to an online group, or a community group in Plymouth. The online groups are free.

Science: Does Mindfulness Work?

I have just completed my studies at Level 3 in counselling. During the course we had to write an assignment about an area of research that interested us. I thought I would share an excerpt here.

Peggy

Explain why research findings are important in counselling work

At the moment, I am particularly interested in looking at research into the use of mindfulness in counselling. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment, without judgement. During my level three counselling training we often began the day’s learning with a group mindfulness session. With my business partner, Emma, I run a community support group called Mindful Art Club, which offers a “check in”, some guided mindfulness, and mindful drawing practice. We then encourage the group to do a simple art project that requires no talent or experience. Members chat informally about their current thoughts and feelings. We then end the group with a “check out”.

When we seek charitable funding to run these groups we have offered both quantitative and qualitative research findings to the funders. We have surveyed our membership, using two client evaluation tools; the PHQ-9 Depression and GAD-7 Anxiety questionnaires. We have also done a few in-depth case studies of individuals, during which the clients described their experiences in their own written words. However, this is a very small data sample; so scientific research papers, with a large data sample size, demonstrating the efficacy of mindfulness would also be helpful to us. A search on the BACP website offers over 300 articles related to mindfulness. I found an interesting article that says mindfulness can be helpful regardless of a client’s presenting problem. (Kamila Hortynska 2014). To back up her article she references 20 different sources including books, websites, professional journals, research papers and NICE guidelines.

Using this as a starting point for my investigation, I can see that there is an abundance of research available related to mindfulness in counselling. From Hortynska’s article we can learn that research has resulted in mindfulness being approved by NICE, and is now used in schools, for corporate employees, for the treatment of depression, was offered as taster sessions in parliament, and is now offered in some statutory services, thanks to a research project at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. (Bangor University 2014). Their website refers to research papers describing a randomized control trial of stress reduction in the workplace, and the initial results from a study of the effects of meditation on multitasking performance. Research papers like these would help us to explain to a corporation the potential value of commissioning a mindfulness course for stress reduction in their workplace.

Research findings provide useful and valuable evidence of the efficiency of various new and existing counselling theories and methods, which can benefit and inform counsellors, clients, funders, companies, agencies, charities, health services, policy makers and government organisations.

References.

  1. Hortynska, Kamila (2014) Being With What Is, Private Practice, Winter 2014, (accessed 12/06/2020.) https://www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/private-practice/winter-2014/being-with-what-is/
  2. Bangor University, Mindfulness in the Workplace. www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/work.php.en (accessed 12/06/2020).