Blue to Green is a social prescribing project providing free arts activities for adults with mental health issues. It is funded by GreenSpace, the Green Social Prescribing Programme for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
Connecting with nature helps improve wellbeing. It leads to a happier, healthier life. Being outdoors has been shown to help lower levels of stress, to reduce fatigue and alleviate anxiety. It motivates us to be more physically active and healthy.
Michelle has fibromyalgia. She was referred to Blue to Green by the social prescriber at her GP’s surgery. She attended full day workshops in the Arboretum. Different sessions introduced people to a range of different artforms – from drawing to watercolour – each designed with wellbeing in mind.
I hadn’t done any art since school until recently. I’m not good at art by any means, but I’ve done a few small art sessions with a woman’s charity. Those and Blue to Green are the first art sessions that I’ve been to as an adult. You get so engrossed in art. It engages you.
The outdoors aspect of Blue to Green really appealed. For the last two years I’ve been really struggling with panic and anxiety. At one point I was severely agoraphobic and I couldn’t leave the house. I’ve had quite a lot of therapy, but even now I haven’t been into town, or to the shops much. So, it was really nice that the sessions took place outdoors.
I was a bit scared because it was something new, with people that I didn’t know. But I thought, “I’m going to go, it’s in the park, what’s the worst that can happen? If I feel that I can’t stay, I can just go for a little walk in the park and then go home”.
We did mindful drawing with artist Mel Rye. We were looking at geometric, symmetrical shapes and patterns. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve bought myself a notepad so I can do more at home. But you can do it anywhere with a biro and a napkin. It’s just really calming. I’ve also been out and bought watercolour tubes, paper and stuff, inspired by the watercolour workshop.
I’m keeping all my artworks in journal. It’s a bit like having an art book at school.
I’d like to find time to do more at home, but it is easy to get distracted by life. These groups are brilliant because you go and you are totally immersed.
One of the symptoms of my fibromyalgia is brain fog. It creates confusion and affects concentration. But I didn’t find it difficult to concentrate at these sessions. It was quite fluid. The artists were all really positive and lovely. It was a nice relaxed setting. I’d love to do some more.
Taking part has inspired me to attend other sessions. I’ve gone to sessions at New Art Exchange that I hadn’t been brave enough to attend previously. But because I enjoyed Blue to Green so much, I decided to give them a try. I’ve been to three now. I think Blue to Green gave me the confidence to go along to a group.
They were really, really good and I hope that there will be more. They were fun and there was a real cross section of people – of different ages and genders.
Michelle’s story shows the huge impact that taking part in arts project can have on people’s wellbeing. Blue to Green has been an important part of her coming out of a period of extreme isolation. Not only has she been inspired to continue with her creative endeavours, she continues to explore the outdoors and is connecting with other arts organisations in the city.