“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent van Gogh
Why I’m Creative
For the past few years, I’ve been slowly taking photos again and I’m noticing a great difference in my health, vitality, and my love for life through this process.
Taking pictures encourages me to stop, slow down, and observe the world around me. It encourages me to be present in a world that screams “Keep moving” and helps me help others see the beauty that they might be missing scurrying through their busy lives.
Photography moves me, motivates me, and helps me find a greater purpose in myself and gives me something to offer the world around me.
But, maybe, sharing your creative process is not for you and that’s OK!
Maybe you want to take up something that you would feel embarrassed for others to see!
I encourage you to take it up and give it a try. Life is too short to live for the opinions of others:
- Draw even though you think you suck at it. Draw because let’s be honest, Stan Lee will never die and you’ll probably never work for Marvel. Draw because it makes you smile.
- Write even though you believe you’re a terrible writer. Write for the joy of writing.
- Paint even though you haven’t painted since you spread finger paints all over your parents’ wall as a child. Paint like your life depended on it.
- Make pottery despite the fact that the only time you’ve seen a pottery wheel is in the movie Ghost. Make pottery anyway.
- Play music in spite of being told that your taste in music is awful. Play to hear the sound of your creation.
- Sew, Crochet, Knit- bring out your inner crafty soul for the sheer joy of working with your hands and enjoying the finished product.
- Take up woodworking. There’s something to be said about building something from the ground up. You may never be Al Borlen, but you’ll definitely enjoy the process.
These are just examples of things you could try, explore, or even fail at.
I’ll be honest, when I was a child, I loved to draw but now, as an adult, I absolutely suck at it, however, I still often doodle in a notebook just to make me smile at how bad of an artist I am and release some stress by having a good laugh at my child-like masterpiece.
Creativity and its exploration not only are good for your mind and your soul but your body, as well.
Health Benefits of Being Creative
In 2010, James Clear, a blogger for the Huffington Post, cited a study from the American Journal of Public Health in his post entitled Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity and quoted the following as some benefits of making art:
- Art fills occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness”
- “Improves well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
- “Improves medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”
- “Reduces in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”
- “Reduces distress and negative emotions”
- “Improves flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”
In a 2004 study, The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine even found that emotional writing for 4 days, 30 minutes a day, can lead to improvements in CD4+lymphocyte counts in HIV patients.
The process of being creative can even result in a meditative-like state according to Huffington Post blogger, Charles Benyaon:
Immersing yourself in a creative activity produces an almost meditative state where your mind is so engrossed in what you’re doing that you temporarily forget all of your troubles and worries. The goal is no different from meditation, mindfulness, or yoga: in order to find calm, peace, and happiness in one’s life, the focus needs to be on one’s inner self (not external stimuli). This can be achieved only by becoming disciplined in an activity (eg. creativity) that will naturally lessen the importance and therefore impact of those thousands of thoughts we experience everyday.
Neuroscientists have been studying many forms of creativity and finding that activities like cooking, drawing, photography, art, music, cake decorating and even doing crossword puzzles are beneficial to your health. When we are being creative, our brains release dopamine, which is a natural anti-depressant. Creativity usually takes concentration and it can lead to the feeling of a natural high. Participating in creative activities may even help to alleviate depression.
I have found myself, more times than not, in this meditative-like state that many artists refer to as “flow”. For me, it’s a time where I feel so strongly. I feel the colors, the texture, everything around me. It’s like a natural high.
It’s a time where my mind is not busy but it’s active, my thoughts are not noisy rather they’re focused and clear.
It’s a beautiful experience where I’ve created some weird (and very stoner-like) art.
Here are some examples:
I can honestly say, after this moment of flow, I feel relieved, relaxed, and empowered.
Even my mom who has lived with and fought mental illness for most of her life loves to color, as she says “It just relaxes me and helps me escape.”
A dear friend of mine named Gabe has used his love of creativity and Christian music to create a podcast called Decent Christian Talk.
Gabe told me that the creative process “lets my mind dwell on something that gives me positive vibes. When I don’t allow myself to do that, my mind has no choice but to go to negative places.”
I’ve known many others who have said that their creative outlet has saved their lives, minds, and hearts–more than once.
My friend Gabriella uses her IG account to raise awareness to sexual abuse, PTSD, and DID through story-telling, photos, and quotes.
Our creativity can connect us to others and break the isolation that often accompanies mental illness.
Creativity Connects You with the World Around You
For you, maybe it’s forming a relationship with the clerk at the craft store as you’re getting craft materials, forming friendships through a Meetup photography club and enhancing your skills, displaying your artwork or photography in a local coffee shop, selling or displaying your woodwork at a local craft show, or just stop and really notice the world around you and let it inspire you, move you, and remind you to breathe or, better yet, it might take your breath away.
Almost every night, my mom sits at our kitchen table and colors and, for her, it’s all she needs because it fills her up and eases her anxiety.
She connects with herself and because of that connection is better able to handle and connect with the world around her.
Creativity helps me connect with the world around me which eases my internal sense of isolation and hopelessness (often symptoms of depression). For me, I love taking photos in nature, in the world around me or just selfies with my dog (yes, I’m THAT guy).
Here are some photos from my “me” time outside:
Step out of Your Comfort Zone into Your Creative Zone
I implore you, dear reader, please take a chance on yourself and explore a side of you that you may not even know exists.
I don’t consider myself a great photographer or writer and, yet, the process of engaging and wrestling with these pursuits has left me better, more self-aware, and stronger than before.
I’ve also had the privilege of helping a few people and maybe you will too!
As I said earlier in this post, you can choose to share your work with others or it can be as simple as doing it for you and you alone.
If you choose to not share your work that is OK and you will still reap the benefits of exploring your creative side.
How About You?
So, now, I want to hear from you dear reader.
What creative processes have you engaged in? If you haven’t attempted any, what would you like to try and why?
How do you feel after you create something, play something, read something or view something that touches your heart and moves your soul?
Is there any creative person who’s inspired you? Robin Williams was a huge inspiration to me to make the world better with my gifts. How about you?
Finally, how do your moods affect your creativity and does engaging in that process help?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes!
Even when I’m depressed and in a dark place, it helps to share my darkness because I know it encourages others to step out of theirs and into the light of honesty and vulnerability. We need each other because isolation and depression will always scream “You’re all alone and nobody understands!”
But vulnerability, as Brene Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, “is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Are you willing to explore the creative side you might know even know you possess?
If so, let me know how it goes or if it’s a path you’ve been walking for a while, I’d love to hear how it’s helped you with managing your mental illness and/or making the world around you a better place.
Be well my friends,