Case Study: Wellbeing from Within

Authors(s), Creator(s) and Contributors: Vicky Evans

Publication Date: 22/03/2022

Categories: Case Studies

Partner(s): University of South Wales

Funder(s): Self-funded


Wellbeing from Within: Creative Movement Explorations is a participatory, creative movement and mark-making series of five somatic movement workshops for adults held in Monmouthshire in the winter of 2022. Participants can explore ways to improve their mental and physical wellbeing through a range of reflective, contemplative and movement experiences which embrace aspects of gentle choreography and Eastern energy theories. By learning more about how our body and mind can feel better through movement and reflective activity, participants are able to nourish themselves and support personal wellbeing. The project was research, designed, facilitated and evaluated for Final Major Project MA Arts Practice (Arts Health and Wellbeing) at University of South Wales.

The Challenge

I was curious about the similarities between Shiatsu and somatic movement and how by using simple choreographic approaches, participants could learn to create embodied, movement sequences. The project was aligned with 5 Ways to Wellbeing (NHS, 2019) ensuring participants could: connect, be active, take notice, give themselves time and try out new approaches. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods featured in the inquiry, evaluating impact on participant wellbeing. “Connecting with new people, learning new skills, noticing little changes in my physicality, being active in a completely different way and sharing this whole experience with some lovely people has made such a positive impact on my physical and mental wellbeing." Participant

The Approach

6 participants took part in 5 free 2 hour workshops. There were opportunities to explore breathwork; stretching; mark-making and somatic movement through guided improvisations. Weekly, a different theme underpinned all activity: breathing; feeling grounded; celebrating and connecting; finding flow and growing and each participant created embodied movement phrases. A culture of sharing also developed: thoughts, images, drawings and movement phrases were shared amongst the group supporting confidence growth. The project was designed in conjunction with USW staff as a final major project for MA Arts Practice at USW and examined how developing a ‘movement mantra’ could support participants to support and nurture their own wellbeing. A range of qualitative and quantitative data was captured allowing a thorough evaluation of activities and impact to be recorded (such as Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Health Wellbeing Scale before and after the project and reflective arts evaluation approaches such as writing a ‘postcard to your future self’ about your learnings. “It was a safe space where we could try things without feeling judged.” “A lovely opportunity to explore an avenue that was completely new for me.” “Having some time to myself to just be in the mom

The Impact

Data from the WEMWBS questionnaire results showed 5/6 participant’s mental wellbeing improved.1 participant’s mental wellbeing remained the same. Three participants (whose mental health was recorded at a low score initially) showed the greatest improvement, gaining on average 21.6 points. The average increase for the group was 11.5 points. Analysing how ‘confidence’ changed during the duration of the project showed there were personal increases week on week for 83% of participants. The Five Ways to Wellbeing questionnaire concluded overwhelmingly that the project sat well within the NHS guidelines. “Everyone was so friendly and we got to know each other over the 5 weeks. It was good to meet new people, chat about what we were doing during the session and also find out that we all had other things in common.” “I would have never considered that I would enjoy being creative through dance but the way it was presented enabled me to understand the connection between movement and feelings.” Weekly postcards reflected personal gains: “How we have grown together as a group over just 5 weeks! Sharing openly our movement. I would recommend my best friend to do this course.” “Your body can help to heal your mind. Remember the importance of movem

Lessons Learned

Careful planning ensured all activities were adaptable and varied. Time was spent to create a shared, supportive environment so participants could share their thoughts, feelings and movements. Bringing together a group of non-dancers to explore somatic movement was inspiring and more people experienced creative movement and choreography. Attendance was high at 80% during a pandemic and participants created longer movement sequences each week. I hope to extend the project in future and repeat to raise awareness of this approach to wellbein

The Legacy

I set out to develop a series of workshops uniting body energy practices with creative tools to support personal wellbeing. Creating a movement mantra was at the heart of this and this study has confirmed my belief that: sharing principles of choreography using a thematic approach to exploratory embodied movement can be beneficial to the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of those involved. I hope to repeat and extend this approach: seeking partnerships with organisations and/or funding opportunities to enable my provision of this work.

Website and Social Media Links

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Contact Details

Vicky Evans

Tags: Creative movement, dance, art, creativity, mental health, community

Wellbeing from Within