Part 7 of the What Does This Have To Do With Wellness? series.
I have always been a creative person. For as long as I can remember I have been engaged in creating, although it has taken different forms throughout my life. Some of my earliest memories from childhood are of painting with my mother and aunts. We used to make what we called butterfly paintings by squishing different colors of paint between the two sides of a folded piece of paper and then opening them up to reveal what we had created.
Throughout my childhood and teens I explored many different creative outlets: dance, writing, drawing and painting, acting, singing, piano, recorder, violin, and photography.
I think creativity, in the various forms it can take, is another basic element of being human. All humans as babies and young children enjoy creating in some way or another, the most common examples are probably painting and coloring. If you’ve ever watched the almost mad-seeming efforts of a young child while painting or coloring you’ll know what I mean. There is this deep desire in humans to explore existence through creativity.
This can take less traditionally recognized forms too like the creativity required for complex problem solving or scientific discovery. It does not have to fall within the boundaries of the traditional “arts”.
If you’ll notice, I have a gallery of my hobby photography here on my blog. While I’m no professional, I enjoy experimenting with different angles, lighting, and subjects. But why as a mental health and wellness writer would I share such pursuits?
What does creativity have to do with our wellness and mental health?
Creating forces us to use our brains differently than we often do in the routines and patterns of our daily lives. And this can have many different benefits. It can relieve stress and encourage decompression or relaxation, help us explore feelings or experiences in a new way, or help us to communicate and connect with other people outside the bounds of typical communication.
Personally, I use creativity, mainly visual art, dance, and writing, to get at the intangible aspects of what I am feeling or experiencing. It sometimes expresses things in a way that I otherwise couldn’t articulate. When I create I am greater than myself, I feel outside of the confines of my everyday life and mindset.
In the process of creating or through being exposed to creativity we can also conjure many profound feelings such as awe, shock, delight, joy, wonder, and curiosity. It’s that feeling we get when we listen to a story that pulls on our heart strings or look at an incredible photograph and are taken somewhere far away. It’s the feeling when we hear our favorite song and can’t help but to sing or dance along. Creativity is a big part of what makes life worth living in my opinion. I would describe it as an energy, not in the sense of auras, but in a more literal sense a creative drive, motivation, or energy.
I think connecting with that energy is very beneficial to our mental health and wellness. Not only can it help us to cope with our struggles and traumas, but also because it can bring us deep joy that can take us away for a little while. And so I think investing time in creativity, either by simply being audience to it or by experimenting with it yourself, is important for our mental, physical, and even spiritual well-being.
It offers up a new language of communication, even if it’s writing in the same language you use every day, it offers us a chance at a new perspective. The opportunity to connect with other people on a new level is also something that should not be underestimated for its positive potential.
We all enjoy creative exploration as children, it is only through being evaluated based on the output of those explorations that we start to doubt our creative ability and whether or not we should be creating. Again, because of our society’s obsession with productivity and efficiency everything we do must be see as tangibly productive otherwise it can’t have value. If it doesn’t have value it’s seen as a waste.
But if we even just accept that the process or experience of creating is beneficial (or productive), regardless of whether or not the product is what we would like or what society would like, then all creating and creativity becomes worthwhile. The point sometimes is in the process not always the product of the process.
Setting aside time to create regularly in our lives, in whatever form you prefer, is a way we can intentionally care for our mental health and wellness. This can be as simple as coloring in a coloring book, writing in a journal, or going on a photography walk with your cellphone. I think in an ideal world we would all have the time and resources to explore creativity and it would be valued, it would be available to everyone everywhere.
Often in our very structured busy world, it is helpful to step outside our normal, step outside ourselves, step outside rules and regimen, and just see what happens.
If you haven’t already, check-out part 6 here. This is the final part of the first wellness series here on HBLogs. I appreciate everyone who has shared this journey with me and has been reading as I write every week, your participation means the world to me. I have really enjoyed hearing from you, reading your emails and comments. I hope this series has helped you get to know me and my perspectives a little better, and has helped open your eyes to the many different aspects of mental health and wellness in our lives. And of course, there are so many more and I will continue to write and share with you all as I discover them. Stay tuned for next week when I am announcing another exciting new project!