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Transforming mental health: upcycling as therapy on Time to Talk Day 


woodworker

About Time to Talk Day: 

Time to Talk Day (01/02/24), run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, is a campaign that aims to create supportive communities by encouraging individuals to talk to friends, family, and colleagues about mental health. It underlines the importance of conversation and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health.


It seems that everywhere we turn, mental health experts are advocating varying strategies to improve our mental wellbeing. Among professionals, there’s differing opinions regarding the most effective treatment approach, with some endorsing the benefits of talk therapy, and others promoting the calming effects of meditation and mindfulness. Something that most experts recognise, however, is the usefulness of outlets to manage and improve mental wellbeing. It can be tough to find constructive outlets for self-expression and connection but, once found, they can be great ways to simultaneously unwind and start conversations. 


You may not immediately think of upcycling as therapy – but that’s been my experience over the last couple of years. Before I get ahead of myself, I am not suggesting upcycling as a replacement for psychotherapy – there are situations where professional intervention is essential. However, in what will become a blog post of vulnerability, we explore the transformative power of breathing new life into old pieces and how it can serve as a gateway to meaningful conversations. 


Since this article’s very purpose is to break down the stigma of mental health, allow me a moment of vulnerability: I have, at times in my life, received therapy. (cue gasps and dramatic music!). Indeed – and I have found therapy incredibly helpful to work through experiences and to process my thoughts and feelings. I’ve also found the creative (and sometimes repetitive) nature of upcycling works in harmony alongside talking to a professional. It goes something like this: 


  1. Chat with my therapist; spill some beans 

  2. Dive into a few hours of upcycling, letting my mind wander 

  3. Bring the new collection of musings back to my therapist next session 

  4. Rinse and repeat 


Maybe it’s a universal experience or maybe it’s just me - when I’m sanding, painting, or varnishing, I'm more introspective. I relive conversations with my therapist, friends and family, and find myself thinking deeply which, in turn, helps me to process thoughts and experiences. 


Conversely, and yet somehow simultaneously, upcycling requires mindfulness and being present in the moment. It allows you to channel your energy into a productive and creative outlet, offering a break from the noise of daily life (provided, of course, you aren’t using power tools – but even the whirl of an orbital sander can be almost meditative). And, once the piece is complete, you can sit back with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. 


Upcyclers are a growing community – we exist in all corners of the world, turning trash to treasure, and sharing our gems on social media. And one of the unrecognised powers of upcycling is its ability to break down barriers and create spaces for conversation. Working on a project provides an opportunity for individuals to share stories, discuss ideas, and encourage others when the going gets tough. And not only that, but the physical transformation of furniture can be recognised as a metaphor for personal growth and change. Discussing the journey of a piece - from broken and battered to rejuvenated and refreshed - can encourage individuals to reflect on their own transformations. It becomes a symbol of resilience, renewal, and the possibility of a brighter future. So, why don't you give upcycling a go, and see what it does for you? 

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Serena Potter
Serena Potter
02 févr.

A wonderfully insightful article. Thank you

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