Creativity, health go hand in hand

Kelly Spencer. (Contributed) jpg, TN

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My sister was and is the creative one in our family.

From a young age her artwork always stood above the rest. More detail, more creativity, seemingly more advanced than most. She harnessed and nurtured her talented imagination early in life. She went to an out-of-town secondary school for her final year that specialized in art. She studied in college, fine art and visual art leading her to jobs that harnessed her savvy. Her creativity kept expanding and expanding with each job she took and eventually after a couple of decades of promotions, led her to Hong Kong where she is vice president of a company and leads many teams for visual displays of the company’s stores around the world. I used to think I was just the athletic outgoing one of the Spencer sisters. I played sports. I was on a student council. I was the extrovert, and my sister was the creative introvert. This thinking let me down for years in the sense that it didn’t acknowledge that I had a creative side that needed to be nurtured.

In fact, for healthy support of our holistic being we all have a creative side that needs to be nurtured.

There are simply so many ways we can be more creative, whether it is hands on painting, drawing, colouring or writing and expressing ourselves to another creative project.

I have loved to create bead jewelry for years but recently during the beginning of the pandemic I started to do more rock painting. The more I do, the more I feel creative and come up with new ideas. I also noticed how calm I feel when I do it. Needless to say, the last few months have made many challenges and stresses, so I have quite a few rocks painted now! Like most kids, my partner’s kids would watch TV or play video games all day if you let them. My step son loves video games but having ADHD and being on the Autism Spectrum, it is doctor recommended and really encouraged that he only spends a short time with screen time a day, and it not be in his own bedroom so we can observe and monitor closely.

As much as he bucked this at first, he now has found so many creative ways to express himself. He tests above 80th percentile is his visual awareness or as he likes to tease, his “keen eye.” He has written full comic books, he loves to draw and create stories, colour, cut out and build. He has taken large appliance boxes and builds old arcade games with them. Even outdoor games of role playing has increased since nurturing more creative time. He wants to be a writer or even a computer programmer, so this time to expand his creative energy is so important and needed. For us that aren’t creative gurus, we might ask: why should I mindfully nurture this? Well, it is a part that exists inside each of us and is simply good for our health.

Here are seven benefits of tapping into our creative forces:

1. Invention: Creativity allows us the use of imagination or original ideas to create something. This is how everything in the world is created. Someone had an idea! No matter how old we are, creativity is a form of self-expression of feelings and experiences.

2. BE true to you: “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso. I believe that for a lot of us, as we grow older, we may censor our creativity as we begin to conform to social norms, often as a means of fitting in and surviving. Some of us become scared to freely express ourselves due to not wanting others to judge us, which then leads on to judging ourselves and making decisions based on what we think someone else would approve of. Let go of what your creativity looks like to others. Do what is true to you!

3. Happiness: When you finish a creative task, like writing in a journal, knitting a scarf or drawing a cute dog, your brain is filled with dopamine – an all-natural anti-depressant that motivates you and makes you feel good. Even something as simple as singing in the car is bound to make you smile more. A 2019 study found that taking part in a creative activity just once a day can lead to a more positive outlook. 658 young adults took note of when they were creative and for how long. After 13 days, researchers found that those who were creative every day reported greater levels of happiness, indicating that creativity and happiness can go hand in hand.

4. Reduced stress, anxiety and mood disturbance: A 2010 study, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health, concluded that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances. It can be as simple as doodling in a journal, playing a guitar or redesigning a room in your house. These are things everyone can do. The sentiment is that if you do a creative activity regularly, you will more than likely benefit from less stress, anxiety and mood disturbances.

5. Problem solving: Being creative can run into blocks, challenges and stumbles. (Just ask my partner about the renovations we are doing.) But blocks create critical thinking and critical thinking can provide solutions and patience. You can become a little more resourceful and creative with figuring things out. The reward is all the sweeter when you are able to problem solve with effectiveness.

6. Flexibility with ideas: Allow yourself to open up to different ways to be creative. My mom was telling me recently that she found the colouring books she used to colour with my children when they were little and how much she enjoyed that. Why stop now? Colour at any age. Try different things. Take a class. Figure out what you enjoy. There are many options online. Start with one and move from there with mindful flexibility.

7. Social connection: Classes can be in person (social distancing) or online now or just something you do with your social circle or bubble at home. For many, getting creative is not only fun but a way to connect with others and is great for maintaining wellbeing at every age. Try cooking something new, nature photography, singing, adult coloring, DIY (do it yourself) crafts or sketching each other. Let go of judgment and allow creativity to enhance connection with one and another.

(Happy Healthy YOU is a wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast! If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email kelly@indigolounge.ca).

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