Years ago, when I started my first maternity leave, after I got through the initial fogginess of sleepless nights, non-stop parenting and keeping my newborn alive, I started to look for something else to do. I yearned to do something that wasn’t for anyone else, just for me, really. A place to think, to dream to explore creative thoughts and ideas.
I hadn’t realized how creative my work as a Corporate Communications Strategist had been. And I missed it.
I have always been a writer and loved to read, but it wasn’t enough somehow. So I started scrapbooking my new daughter’s life. I loved it. I would carve out “Stolen Moments” as my artist friend called her recent art exhibit to creatively express the thoughts and experiences of daily life, of my new daughter’s life and of my experience of it with her. It’s a creative outlet that I continued to explore for many years. And I loved it.
Creativity, of course, takes many forms. Writing, gardening, building, playing, designing, decorating, cooking….. being creative and creating something that wasn’t there before is immensely satisfying and activates more of your brain.
Neuroscience research suggests that creative people are better able to engage the three brain systems – the default mode network, the salience network and the executive control network – that collectively produce creative thought.
An article in Psychology Today indicates that building your creative side also contributes to how open to new ideas a person is. People who are low in openness prefer routines and familiarity, while those who are high in openness revel in novelty, whether it’s meeting new people, processing different emotions, or travelling to exotic destinations. Accumulating these experiences and perspectives can help the brain forge new and creative connections and invite more curiosity, positivity, energy, persistence, and intrinsic motivation.
Additionally, having a creative outlet that you engage in regularly and look forward to, can spark many benefits that are generally beneficial in your regular life and work.
1. It’s Confidence Building
Creating something that wasn’t there before builds satisfaction and confidence. It helps you develop your own voice and perspective. I like writing for this. Writing helps me explore how I feel about topics, explore different perspectives and helps me gain clarity around my opinion on subjects. This also leads to me being able to communicate my ideas with more clarity and ease.
2. Opportunity to Self-Express
Writing, painting, quilting, cooking… all give you the opportunity to self-express. It’s therapeutic and helps you work through emotions that may otherwise express negatively. There are many psychological benefits of art therapy as it’s used with everyone from children to adults to groups to families to assess and treat anxiety, depression, substance abuse and addictions, relationship issues, trauma and so on. Those days of scrapbooking as my newborn slept were definitely therapeutic for me and were a wonderfully healthy way to activate and express gratitude and love when those might not have been what I was always feeling when I was woken up in the middle of the night!
I love to write to work through and process emotions and ideas. What I start with and what I end with can be two completely different outcomes. Julia Cameron popularized the concept of Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing done first thing in the morning. I often prescribe this exercise to my clients who are in creative and discovery mode in their career or business development. This exercise isn’t even really about “writing,” it’s about emptying out everything in your head so you can gain clarity about what really matters. These pages are for your eyes only. Challenge yourself to do three full pages. The magic starts to appear at the beginning of page three. Try it and see what you discover!
4. Develop Empathy
Just as my scrapbooking moments allowed me to explore the world through my daughter’s eyes, diving deep into a creative subject invites an exploration of empathy outside of your usual life. The study of a painting subject, the digging of soil, the sewing of a costume… all invite introspection and thought that will help you understand other perspectives better, and consequently develop more empathy. Empathy is a crucial “Sage Power” as Shirzad Charmin of Positive Intelligence calls it, that helps wire your brain to deal more effectively with life’s everyday challenges.
5. Improve Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health
Creative writing, for example, has been proven to alleviate stress and help improve physical and psychological health. Drawing, writing, reading, poetry and crafting can all help lower stress, relax your muscles, reduce indigestion and inflammation and increase self-esteem and productivity. This is because creative pursuits help us focus our attention, similar to the way that meditating does.
So the next time you feel like you’re “not doing anything productive” when you find yourself lost in a crafting project – think again. Building confidence, self-expression, clarity of thought, empathy for others and improving overall health are all amazing side benefits of having a creative outlet that you enjoy and indulge in regularly.
Where will you put your creative energy today?
To your success, in business and in life,
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