What is Creative First Aid?

Make Shift

Creative First Aid is a pioneering approach by MakeShift. Intentional creative practice acts as a powerful antidote in regulating the nervous system, fostering mindful awareness, and enabling calm connection between people and communities.

It is wisdom from our most ancient cultures around the world, and recognises that humans are, indeed, intrinsically creative. Now, in our society though, many people have lost the belief that they are creative. There are strange rules about who is ‘allowed’ to engage in creative expression, and by golly, you better be ‘good’ at it.

Creative First Aid works to unwire those beliefs, and heal the relationship people have with their inbuilt, ever-present creativity. Because, this internal design can offer a path to wellbeing, and it’s proven over and again in research and program trials.

This approach is part of a global movement called Social Prescribing - that being the prescribing of social, creative and recreational activities as part of health treatment and support. Social prescribing is gaining huge momentum around the world, as increasingly, evidence proves that this approach really helps people enormously.

It hinges on the reality that people’s lives happen mostly outside of clinical treatment spaces, and so there are opportunities there for connection, to both enjoyment of life, and to other people and groups, that are healing and aide recovery, especially in the case of mental health and trauma experiences.

Social prescribing has also shown to relieve a very over-stretched health system, as this approach can support people who identify they need help, but aren’t necessarily experiencing acute illness.

A new report from Creative Australia, Creating Wellbeing: Attitudes and engagement with arts, culture and health, shows that 9 out of 10 Australians support arts-on-prescription initiatives, especially for treatment of mental health issues.

Another research study by Dr Christina Davies, The Art of Being Mentally Healthy, shows that engaging with art for 2 hours a week significantly improves overall health and wellbeing.

Our approach to prescribing creativity is in sharing a framework for how people can, whether it’s in our facilitated programs, or self-guided, cultivate the conditions to access and connect to their own innate creativity in ways that support psychological wellbeing.

We weave mental health and psycho- education together with fun-first, inspiring creative practices for a highly impactful experience. We transform creative acts into creative first aid through a reviewed and evaluated methodology.

There is a difference between Creative First Aid, and art therapy. It’s easy to get them confused. Art therapy is a highly useful discipline - drawing upon art mediums and activities as part of a therapeutic process.

Creative First Aid, on the other hand, is about enabling people to practice creativity, simply for the fun of it.

We believe, and have witnessed through hundreds of people in our programs, that practicing creativity in this way has 6 main outcomes:

  1. Doing something creative, and getting immersed in that immediately interacts with our brain chemistry. Studies have proven that singing, being in nature, dancing, drawing, making something with your hands - all of these things quickly calm and balance our nervous system and reduce stress hormones.
  2. Creative First Aid provides space to find meaning beyond our inner world, connecting with something greater. Exploring creative expression can surprise us with sparks of realisation, a sense of awe and a shifting of the way we see ourselves. This is something humans have done, always, over thousands of years, and across every culture on earth.
  3. Practicing creativity cultivates a space to practice some of the things that we need to be able to do, out there in the real world, like taking risks, not being sure of the outcome, trying something, and sometimes even failing. This can build our resilience to take the little but many steps we need to take in life - whether it’s to properly manage an illness or health issue, address issues in a relationships, take charge of our career or study or finances.
  4. Creativity is the doorway to experiencing joy, wonder, awe, delight, and fun. These are things that are essential for the human experience, and offset experiences of pain, despair, loneliness, anxiety, fear.
  5. By tuning into ourselves, and applying creativity as a prescription to support us, we build greater capacity to truly and authentically connect with others. We are less likely to mindlessly take out our own stuff on others. This practice, over time, builds empathy and connection to others, and means we grow more able to not only care for ourselves, but care for others in our lives and community. Self care and community care are linked, after all.
  6. Finally, all these benefits together foster a greater sense of mindful awareness and inner wisdom. You are able to tune into our own internal wisdom and feel a greater sense of control over how you respond to good days, hard days and all that’s in between.

From the Creative Dispensary in a post- lockdown regional city, to creative first aid weekly programming in juvenile justice, multi day disaster recovery programs for residents, and trauma recovery programs with frontline workers, MakeShift devises experiences that are truly transformative for the people who engage with them.

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