Accessing your creative side provides more benefits for your health than without. Take some time to incorporate art into your life!
Creativity is actually an important part of life- even history tells us so! Art helps provide us with an avenue of self-expression. The symbolism we create through art gives us a non-verbal way of showing how we may feel. Even the act of being creative allows us an opportunity to relax and nurture ourselves.
It is no secret that the arts have been a part of the world for thousands of years. In history, we learn about the ancient carvings into cave walls by humans dating back tens of thousands of years. Art was likely a form of communication using symbols and is believed to have slowly evolved into more self-expression. Ancient artifacts also help us understand that music was also an integral form of expression around the same time (bone flutes). That tells us that creativity has existed in humans for an amazing amount of time! Ancient civilizations were all about the arts and even today many cultures support artistic expression as a daily part of life. Early humans were on to something, right? Is creativity part of your life today?
Not convinced the arts could be an important addition to your life? Scientific evidence has started showing us some significant data that basically says, “You really should get creative.” Check out a journal listed on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website (The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature -Heather L. Stuckey, DEd, corresponding author, and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH; 2010, February.) This is several different studies that demonstrated how the arts increased the recovery outcomes of people struggling with cancer, trauma, addiction- the list just goes on.
Would you like to reduce stress, reduce depressive thoughts, improve self-worth, improve quality of life, reduce anger- even more? If you answered “yes”, maybe bringing creativity to your life may help.
“But I’m Not Creative”
I hope you realize that’s plain ol’ hogwash. Let’s break things down. Do you listen to music? (Yeah, you do?) Does the idea of a concert or attending an orchestra move you? Maybe you like to collect antiques? Wait, do you watch movies?? Believe it or not, the arts- music especially- is a nice little addition to enhancing your movie-watching experience. All those scary scenes tend to have that ominous music lurking in the background, while bright and poppy sounds lift us up in those feel-good scenes. It helps flex your creative muscle. In other words, you feel something when exposed to the arts.
If you were intrigued by a sculpture, imagine how it could feel to sit and create your own version? We may not all be composers, but sitting with a drum, at a piano, or toying with a kazoo- even for a brief moment- how does one resist the temptation to play? Do you find yourself singing along with a song or tapping your foot to the beat? (See? There’s something there.)
When it comes to being creative, some of us shy away from it for a variety of reasons. Fear is one. Maybe you didn’t study the arts in school, but I promise you, it’s there. Worry- this one is like performance anxiety. You might be worried you will look foolish for trying. Let’s clarify something here for a minute. We’re talking about creativity, not creating a masterpiece. Creativity is an experience, it’s the act of making art or engaging in a creative process. Discomfort is another reason we may avoid creativity. It may also mean feeling some vulnerability. We don’t like uncomfortable stuff, so we avoid it when possible.
So, in a way, creativity provides us some humility, learning to be imperfect, mustering up courage, and accessing bravery. If you can, work on letting go of the thoughts that keep you from being creative. We stop ourselves short when we say, “I’m not an artist.” Even artists go through a process of watching and learning to develop and grow. (If you are building a career for yourself more than likely you continue to practice what you do and pick up new skills along the way- it’s the same for art!) There are no boundaries in art and creativity. Choose something that looks interesting and slowly build on it- exploring and keeping an open mind.
Connecting with Your Inner Child
If you are willing to access your creative side look to your inner child. That’s the one who craves play. As adults we are inundated with daily responsibilities to the point we may forget what it means to stop and enjoy the moment. If you have been asking yourself where the feeling of joy has gone in life, maybe it’s time to slow down and engage in something that sparks those feelings. Creativity may seem scary and overwhelming so it may require you to lean into the discomfort and push through. Make time for yourself and play some music, dance, grab some crayons and a coloring book, or sing a song aloud.
You’re Creative and You Didn’t Even Know It
You may not see it but there are likely times you are accessing your creativity without even realizing it. When cooking food for example, sometimes you might make a modification to a recipe or you experiment with a different flavor. Maybe you are a problem-solver. Working toward a solution is accessing that creative thought-process! Do you keep a journal? (It’s okay if you don’t write in it every day.) Writing is a great way to help us explore how we feel connected to the world. Like to tell jokes? Trying to ease the tension in a room or just looking to find a smile in someone- there’s that creativity at work.
Creativity is also an avenue to consider if you are hoping to work on recovery in mental health. There are many options available such as Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Dance Therapy. Expressive Arts is also a form of creative therapy that uses a multimodal approach (such as Music Therapy and Dance Therapy, or Drama Therapy and Art Therapy- in short, it is a mix of creative therapies used in treatment.)
Hopefully this has inspired you to look more into being creative. At the very least, take the time to acknowledge the moments that your creativity is being sparked- enjoy the moment, embrace it, and keep on being creative!
Rochester Art Therapy is a mental health service in Rochester, NY. If you are looking for support with an Art Therapist in the area, contact us for more information.
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.