Are more creative people who seek solitude

Fighting loneliness creatively - Times!

Barbara Sterkman greets her guests with a happy "Hello!" and asks her to come to her creative studio in Frauenfeld. Canvases with flower motifs hang on the walls of the small room on the ground floor. Colorful paper mache figures and small clay busts fill the shelves.

Barbara Sterkman

Art therapist

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Barbara Sterkman has worked as an art therapist and artist for 25 years. She is the initiator and manager of the «change of scenery» in Frauenfeld, a day care center with a studio for old people and people with special needs. Under the motto “With art and creativity against loneliness and depression”, she also offers various studio programs for outside people.

Change of scenery Frauenfeld, Link will open in a new window

There are fresh flowers in a vase, and cookies are waiting next to the coffee machine. Barbara Sterkman puts a hand on the shoulder of her guests and asks: "How hesch it?"

Pumpkins on a modeling stand

Two men and six women come to their open studio on this Thursday afternoon in November. The youngest of the group is 18 years old, the oldest 93.

Barbara Sterkman arranges three pumpkins with autumn leaves on a modeling stand. The energetic woman always falls a curl in the face. The pumpkin arrangement is a suggested subject for this afternoon.

Some of the participants immediately pick up colored pencils and lean over the paper in concentration. Others think a little longer, decide on a different, personally chosen motif.

Hardly anyone comes and says: "I'm lonely"

Barbara Sterkman works as an art therapist. The open studio is the “heart” of the day care home, as she describes it herself.

“Hardly anyone comes to us and says, 'I'm lonely,'” says Sterkman. Loneliness is too shame for that.

Recommended by the doctor

And yet Sterkman titled her offer on her website: "With art and creativity against loneliness and depression". Expressing yourself creatively in a group can help counter this feeling, says Sterkman.

Not only the age of the participants is very different. Also the reason why they visit the open studio. Some got the offer from the doctor recommended, others were simply looking for a place where they could paint and design.

The open studio also corresponds to this range: it is neither art therapy nor a course to learn a painting technique. But something in between and yet completely different - and unique in Switzerland.

Do the participants all feel lonely? Difficult to answer. But some of the guests look back on a difficult life story.

They are happy to receive Sterkman's offer. It gives them new momentum. And all of them answer with an energetic yes to the question of whether creativity can help against loneliness.

"You can only be yourself when you paint"

Barbara Sterkman explains: “It's about the relationship that emerges with yourself when you are creative. When painting, you can't be someone other than who you are. "

You also get into a relationship with fellow human beings: “They give feedback on what has been created. This is indirect feedback on yourself, ”says Sterkman.

How dangerous is loneliness?

2010, link opens in a new window and 2015, link opens in a new window, large-scale studies stated that loneliness is dangerous to health - allegedly worse than smoking.

The alarm was raised especially in Great Britain: Prime Minister Theresa May was quoted as saying that one in five people in the country is affected by loneliness - and at the beginning of the year she set up a “Ministry for Loneliness”.

From 2023, doctors in Great Britain will be able to prescribe anti-loneliness activities for their patients instead of pills, Link opens in a new window: art classes, cooking and dance lessons.

The many creative courses that are listed are striking. Is creativity a miracle cure for loneliness?

The situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland it looks a little different. According to federal statistics, Link Opens in a New Window, the perception of loneliness is generally stable between 1997 and 2012.

And yet: Even in Switzerland, people feel alone - and some people are already relieving their suffering by being creative.

Barbara Sterkman turned on the radio. Xavier Naidoo sings from the speakers while she looks over the shoulders of the participants.

She does not intervene in the painting process and does not interpret the works. But it animates. “I'm really proud of you,” she says to one of the participants.

At another table, a young woman is painting a landscape in delicate colors. Can an offer like this help against loneliness?

“Painting alone in a room would be difficult,” says the young woman. “But there are people here. You can talk about what you are doing together. "

So is it being together that helps? In other words: could you just go hiking with other people for the same effect?

Yes, as long as you don't just talk about the weather, but engage in conversations with others and consciously notice the hiking. This is what psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Peter Schwob says.

The really helpful thing had already happened at that moment: "Namely, the decision to do something with other people."

Schwob defines loneliness as follows: "One judges oneself, withdraws, remembers experienced aversion and avoids new possible rejections." And of course there are also external influences, for example when a person has lost his partner, feels abandoned or has been thrown off course by other events.

Facing the lonely self with a new self

“The crux of the matter is how to get back to being I - not just through thinking, but rather the feeling, 'Yes, that's me!'”, Says Schwob. So that your own expression can be different from loneliness.

It is precisely this feeling that can actually arise particularly strongly in creative activity, admits Schwob: "With creative people it is easier and more compelling to really live in it."

The main thing is to take the first step

In the end, the choice of activity depends on personal preference. The main thing is to take the first step.

In the open studio in Frauenfeld there is fun and laughter. Daylight is slowly disappearing. The participants still wash their brushes, dip them in new paint and use them to paint.

At the very back of the room is Maria, a carefully made-up woman with blond hair. She paints a heart, encircling it with white, then with green, then with blue and more and more colors, until the heart touches the edge of the canvas.

Maria says: «The heart becomes bigger and grows. It is the same in life. Everything grows. "