Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays, a series of bonus blog posts that will be released on the last Saturday of each month. In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them. These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself.
Have you ever uttered the phrase, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body?” Or maybe you’re more naturally artistic and consider yourself more right-brained than left-brained. In my family, I’ve always been the “non-creative” one, at least when it comes to crafting or visual art. (If you could see some of the disasters of Christmas ornaments I attempted to craft in elementary school…)
The reality is that all of us are creative, even if our creativity lies unused in the darkest corners of our mind. Creativity isn’t just about making art. In fact, the definition of creativity references creative expression as the use of imagination in the formation of original ideas.
Creativity has a multitude of benefits for your physical and mental health. Many creative activities involve repetition and slowing down, both of which are soothing and relieve stress. Practicing creativity improves brain function and mood. Creative thought and behavior requires a slower pace: we cannot be creative and rush at the same time. Have you ever noticed that when you give yourself the time to think and slow down, your best ideas come to you?
In the counseling office, art therapy and music therapy are used to process emotions and experiences through creative expression. The philosophy behind art therapy relates to neuroscience: art and music use the nonverbal, expressive area of our brains. Emotions, trauma, and other painful experiences are often stored in these areas, and using our creativity connects with these emotions. Benefits of art therapy include improved mental health due to relieving the tension of those negative and painful emotions.
Keep in mind as you seek to explore your creativity: the point of creating isn’t to make something perfect: it’s to enjoy the process of creating. What you make might not be on par with the Mona Lisa, a meal at a five-star restaurant, or one of Beethoven’s symphonies. The point of creativity is not the end goal – it’s the journey of getting there.
Here are some ideas about how to practice creativity:
Coloring Books or Painting
Adult coloring books have become increasingly popular the past few years, often because of the benefits mentioned about the soothing nature of repetition and increased focus. I even think there’s something fun and playful about coloring in a children’s coloring book with crayons, which you can do on your own or with your children. Similarly, painting, either in a class with friends or on your own can be an enjoyable way to relieve stress, and can be relatively inexpensive with the purchase of your own crafting supplies.
Crafting, Knitting, or Crocheting
These type of projects can be just as soothing and relaxing as a coloring book. Look for ideas for projects on a Pinterest crafting board or a magazine that strikes your interest. Start at the skill level you have in order to keep yourself from being discouraged by a project that ends up being too difficult or expensive to complete.
Cooking and baking offer many opportunities to be creative. Try a new recipe or alter ingredients or flavors in a recipe that you already love. Play a version of Chopped where you start with four random ingredients in your kitchen and put together a meal using all four. Brainstorm unique ways to decorate or style a dessert that you’ve made.
Spending time weeding in the garden or growing plants, vegetables, and flowers can be surprisingly therapeutic. The repetitive actions of tending the garden, watching as your plants grow, spending time outside and breathing in the fresh air, and feeling the sun on your skin are a perfect combination to awaken creativity.
If you play a musical instrument or sing, spend some time playing some of your favorites, learning a new song, or creating your own. You don’t need science to tell you that music has mental health benefits – you can experience it for yourself when you hear your favorite song and immediately feel an impact on your mood.
Whether you write professionally or you just like to keep a daily journal, a regular writing practice is a great way to relieve stress. Spend some time journaling, write a poem, or draft a mini-article about a topic of interest.
Scheme on a Friend’s Behalf
Dream up a creative way to make a friend or family member feel special. If they have a birthday, special event, or you simply want to make sure they know they are loved, creatively brainstorm ways to bless them and love them well.
…and so much more!
There are so many options out there for being creative. Whether you’re a fan of home improvement projects, hair and makeup, creating videos or photography, or even sports, there is a form of creative expression that fits with every personality. Find what works for you and make it happen!
How will you embrace creativity in your life this week?
If you’re feeling run down, stressed out, and exhausted by life, we know that self-care can feel like your last priority. At Restored Hope, I believe that self-care is an essential part of recovery from anxiety, depression, addiction, and a whole host of other mental health struggles. At my Ann Arbor counseling office, I offer support in your journey to mental wellness and wholehearted living. Give me a call today at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear more about how I can help.