A new study has revealed that taking more ‘me-time’ not only reduces stress and the risk of depression but stimulates creativity. Writer Una Brankin and Belfast artist and mum-of-two Dawn Crothers explain why downtime is essential to their wellbeing.

A ground-breaking new report has shown that short periods of solitude is good for our mental health, leading to more creative behaviour which in turns reduces stress and its associated health issues.

The University of Buffalo research found that those who chose to spend time alone were more creative than others. And the creative process is a stress-buster which has been proven to translate into better heart health and a reduced risk of dementia.

The latest findings indicate that me-time has real benefits for our mental health.

Belfast artist Dawn Crothers (35) is married to fellow artist, Stephen Whalley (40), who is selling the couple’s artwork at the Christmas Market at the City Hall. They have two young sons, Ethan (5) and Jake (2). Dawn is known for her trademark paintings of snails and has just held her annual exhibition. She says:

I think everyone needs to take time out for themselves although we don’t always do it. Especially as working parents, I find that usually if you do get downtime you spend it playing with your children to make up for the time you are working.

I am not in the least surprised by the results of this survey and I really do believe we all need to relax for our health’s sake.

This has been a really busy period for me. For the past few months I’ve been getting ready for my exhibition which was last Saturday and went really well.

Also from the start of November, I’ve been working on commissions for Christmas and this year my personalised snail paintings are really popular.

They take a few weeks to paint and dry, and then Stephen and I also have a stall at the Christmas Market which is seven days a week for five weeks. Luckily family and friends are chipping in to help with the children.

It is a bit easier now that Jake is older and going to nursery a couple of days a week and Ethan is in primary one. I’m always painting – even through my pregnancy I painted. I didn’t have much maternity leave because I’m self-employed.

While I don’t suffer from depression I think everybody gets a bit down at some time and for me it was the weeks after I had my children. I was looking after them and also trying to juggle commissions and continue to work.

I found that a struggle as I wasn’t doing anything for myself. I was with the children all the time and not getting out and I can see how for many new mums that can lead to depression.

Many new mums find it hard to cope and I certainly did.

Now, though, I’m conscious that I need time to myself and try to meet up with friends as often as I can and also go to a Pilates class.

Because this time of the year is so busy we usually try and take a holiday abroad after Christmas to relax.

Taking time out to unwind can inspire you and make you more creative.

I think it’s when you are relaxing that you get new ideas.

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