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NTU Social Work alumna encourages people to sprinkle creativity over their self-care routines

It’s always a pleasure to hear from members of our alumni community, especially if they’ve got an interesting piece of news to share. One of those people who reached out to us recently was Lauren Hunt.

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Graduating with a BA (Hons) in Social Work back in 2017, Lauren now has a rewarding career in the social work profession and wanted to let us know about her new project – The Art of Self Care.

Funded by Arts Council England, the project is creating a range of accessible arts and crafts activities and self-care workbooks that can be used both digitally and in print.

“The idea for this came about during my studies,” Lauren explains. “Learning about all the social theories – such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs –  and thinking of ways to apply it. Research from the World Health Organisation shows the huge benefits involvements with the arts can bring in terms of a person’s wellbeing.

“The aim is to support people to take control of their own emotional and mental health,” Lauren says, “using art and creativity. Our new website hosts a wide range of activities for people new to art, in addition to explaining the process from commission through to photography, graphic design and finally the printing and distribution of their finished workbooks.”

At the end of the project, participants will be able to showcase their work at an exhibition event in Nottingham.

As well as being an NTU alumna, Lauren says the project has another connection to NTU. Verusca Calabria, a Research Fellow in our School of Social Sciences is helping to evaluate its success. “My project is quite aligned to what Verusca is doing with her research activities,” she says, “so she found my Facebook page and got in touch. Paul Blakeman [Principal Lecturer in Social Work] has also been incredibly supportive. They’ve both really helped me to develop my ideas.”

Given Lauren is based in Nottingham, does that mean people from elsewhere can’t take part?

“Not at all,” she says. “In fact, one of the artists we’ve commissioned is based in Iceland, so it has the potential to be international. It’s important to me that it remains as open and inclusive as possible. I also want it to be self-directed and led by the person taking part. They can dip in and out and take what they want from it.

The project’s website – Thortify - features arts activities, a blog with wellbeing articles, and in coming months will feature an option to download three art workbooks that focus on three main research theories. Lauren is currently working on one called ‘Ground Yourself’.

“It’s based on a social theory that looks at stress and coping and includes arts and written exercises to help improve the user’s mental wellbeing,” she says. “We’re also working with various mental health professionals who are exploring if these might have value as a therapeutic resource.”

With the focus on making the wellbeing resources as accessible as possible, does Lauren have any thoughts on which medium will work best?

“One of the challenges is that some people could be limited by access to technology,” she says. “My absolute dream would be to see our workbooks available in GP’s surgeries, community centres, everywhere. I’d love one day to be able to print copies and hand them out for free, but the research will hopefully reveal which approach works best.”

Visit the Thortify website to find out more.

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