The connection between creative expression and mental wellbeing

Illustration depicting mental well-being

Creativity and expression don’t necessarily need a purpose to be impactful (ever heard of art for art’s sake?) In fact, flexing our creative muscles just because supports our greater mental health, whether we dub ourselves “artist” or not. And the best part is the benefits of stress-relief, calm and connectedness can be felt and achieved through any medium — even activities that aren’t considered traditionally art, like cooking, sewing, coloring or journaling.

Ready to talk about it

Gen Z in particular is bringing the mental health conversation to the forefront, using creativity as their catalyst. This generation, born between 1997 and 2013, are champions of creativity, independence, tech-literacy… and emotional awareness.

As these young people enter the workforce, it’s time to explore methods and practices that nurture our nervous systems and help us to healthfully work with and even alchemize the emotions and mental health struggles that inform our lives today.

How creativity benefits your mental health

The Adobe Foundation is proud to continue to collaborate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and share new research findings from our work together. These research findings provide insight into the ways creativity can positively influence mental health, and why it’s so important to give people resources when they need them most.

Preliminary responses show that young people (ages 13-25) are actively engaging in creative activity and it’s yielding powerful benefits, from boosting their confidence to reducing feelings of stress or anxiety. Additionally, early results reveal that engaging in creative activity provides a sense of community for young creators. Here’s a first look at the findings from initial survey respondents.

Infographic of NAMI x Adobe Foundation research results.
Infographic of NAMI x Adobe Foundation research results.
Infographic of NAMI x Adobe Foundation research results.

Get inspired: creativity in action

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we reached out to our creator community to share their own experiences with navigating mental health. They chatted about the power of creativity and how it helps with stress management, relaxation, and serves as a personal oasis of enjoyment and self-care.

Read along as they share words of encouragement and inspiration, and start creating yourself to see what unfolds. Whether it’s doodling, coloring, journaling, photography — personalize it, use your imagination and tools available to you, and don’t forget to post your own stories to start a ripple effect.

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Start creating

Join in the conversation and start creating to see what unfolds and to support your wellbeing.

Photograph of Wednesday Holmes

Wednesday Holmes, @hellomynameiswednesday

Wednesday is a London based Queer/Trans illustrator, designer, writer and disruptor. They create artwork inspired by and for queer people, aiming to use their art to make a difference, change minds and embrace the ever-changing emotions of life.

“Being creative supports my mental wellbeing because it allows me to express my feelings in a way which makes sense in my head. I first got into illustration four years ago. I used to use a Biró pen to create intricate illustrations in order to process symptoms of my bipolar disorder. Creating helps me deal with my own problems, as well as to empower others.”

“I like to use art as a medium to make people feel like life is less challenging, to make people feel like they can have a good day, and they feel loved — including myself.”

Photograph of Shelly Kim

Shelly Kim, @lettersbyshells

Shelly is the self-taught lettering artist behind the company Letters By Shells. Shelly's foundation as an artist is based on her realization that the act of creating art was an outlet for her to cope with everyday stresses and to express love and positivity for others.

“Creating gives me balance — it puts me in a place filled with good vibes and happiness. I get so focused in the art I'm making that all of my worries and stress from the day seem so little and all that matters is that I'm here in the moment and having fun creating all the things that make me happy.”

“Being creative allows me to express my feelings and feel connected with myself through the things I create as I explore various art mediums and learn new things.”

“I get so focused [when I’m making] art that all of my worries and stress from the day seem so little and all that matters is that I'm here in the moment and having fun creating all the things that make me happy.”

—Shelly Kim

Photograph of Kai McPhee

Kai McPhee, @knawtkai

Kai is a creative, stylist and designer who utilizes his platform to showcase self-love, good-energy and how this weaves this into his day-to-day life as a designer.

“Creating supports my mental well-being because it brings me peace and calms my mind down. Just how anyone may have an outlet to get their emotions out — whether it’s meditation, fitness, etc. — mine is creating.”

“Creating is important to me because it’s the main way I express myself. When I don’t know what to say I feel as though my creation can speak for itself, much clearer than I can say it.”

Photograph of Mikah Jones

Mikah Jones, @mikahjonesss

Mikah is a creator and activist who prides himself on being openly vulnerable, championing personal-growth and taking back control of his mental health. As a healing coach, Mikah uses social media to share his methods and perspectives on how he approaches mental health, trauma and self-love.

Making videos is healing for me because there is no hiding from yourself when creating — you get to see EXACTLY who you are and who you want to become. Supporting my mental well-being has looked like this: turning my thoughts + emotions into Inner childs that I can guide & support.”

“The most important relationship I will have in my life, is with myself, my inner child. Creativity is the one thing me and my inner child bond over, and this relationship means the world to me.”

— Mikah Jones

“Lately, I’ve been struggling with the relationships in my life, a part of me deeply fears that everyone I love will just leave & find someone better to be friends with or in a relationship with. I wanted to connect to this part of me — not only that but guide this part of myself to imagine a life where our friends & partner loves us dearly. Making this video did exactly that!”

Photograph of Kim Saira

Kim Saira, @kimsaira

Kim is an artist, activist, content creator and graphic designer. Kim's work is a blend of bringing to light issues and injustices that many BIPOC face alongside tips and tricks on how to balance your mental health and set expectations.

“Creativity is how I've always expressed myself growing up, especially as an Asian American immigrant who always felt like I was stuck in between worlds and cultures. Specifically when it comes to languages too — my parents only spoke my native tongue at home, and they were also learning English from me.

Art was how I expressed myself in my own way. And so now in my adulthood, I bring my own essence of creativity through how I communicate to the world with my graphic designs, infographics, and videos.

“Creativity constantly shows me that I am a multi-dimensional being and there are countless ways to communicate with the world around us.”

— Kim Saira

Our on-going commitment to mental health initiatives

We’re joining together with industry organizations who share our commitment towards positive mental wellbeing, like the Ad Council, JED Foundation and United Global Mental Health Action Network, to provide resources for support, and open new pathways for more people to create.

To raise awareness about the mental health struggles our youth face, and ways to start and sustain supportive conversations, the Seize The Awkward campaign, a joint effort between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), The Jed Foundation (JED) and the Ad Council, we are coming together to create content and resources that make it easier for young people to connect and support people close to them who may be facing mental health challenges.