As winter tightens its grip and the warmth of Christmas fades, many confront the annual challenge of the ‘January blues’. There are fewer visits from family and friends, more reasons to try and cut back on the cost of going out. It can be a lonely, difficult, time of year. For individuals like Ella Walker from Dorking, who grapples with anxiety and depression, this time of year can intensify mental health struggles. However, amidst the seasonal gloom, Ella has found strength and agency through art.

Ella’s artistic journey was motivated by the challenges of her mental health. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, Ella’s life has long been affected by low self-esteem and isolation.

“I have anxiety, which makes going out and interacting with people challenging, and depression, which makes functioning day-to-day difficult.”

First encouraged by a volunteer at the Dorking’s Patchworking Garden and then later by social enterprise, Art Rabble, Ella now sees the first green shoots of hope, for a brighter future.

Nature and animals serve as Ella’s muse. Her paintings invite us to pause and enjoy the light-hearted, often playful and intriguing, lives of animals.  In a season marked by coldness and isolation, Ella’s creations radiate warmth.

Studies have shown that engaging in artistic activities is linked to improved mental health and enhanced cognitive function. The act of creating art stimulates the release of dopamine, offering a natural and accessible way to uplift one’s mood. It is something to share, a conversation starter and a source of pride.

Art has given Ella the strength to grow, to aspire for more. The positive feedback her work has received has been priceless. Ella’s anxieties and depression, have not disappeared in a theatrical puff of smoke, but her new found confidence affords her a new ability to relax, smile and enjoy exploring her creativity. Not every painting works out perfectly but some of them do. Some of them are really good! And, that drives her on.

As we all hunker down indoors, trying to avoid the worst of the January chill, art can be the thing that lightens our day. The pursuit that gives us purpose and pride. Ella Walker’s story is a positive one. The road to good mental health is not an easy one, no two stories are the same but hopefully if we are all more open to talking about our own challenges, less people will struggle alone. 1 in 4 people in the Uk will experience mental health problems in their lifetime.

To see more of Ella’s work and support her, visit