I see it all the time. Friends and acquaintances whose lives are heavily scheduled, extremely full from sunrise to bedtime, and yet they feel like something is missing. Their routine is crushing their spirit under its heavy load. They almost never have time for self-care. They might try to fill that hole of need through alcohol, TV, or ice cream sundaes. They harden themselves and keep going, not sure how to get out of that rut.
Does this sound like you? You might not even know what you’re longing for.
What’s missing from the lives of so many people in our culture? It’s one of the basic nutrients for a healthy life: exercising your creativity.
Creativity is essential for optimum health, like brushing your teeth and eating your veggies.
At this point I can hear the protests begin. “I’m not really creative,” you might say. “That’s fine for artists and writers, but I just can’t do that stuff. I’m not talented.” A friend of mine, while in the midst of an amazingly creative conversation in which she reveals the fascinating workings of her Gemini mind, will routinely play the “I’m not creative” card. I’m not buying it.
Sure, you might not write novels, act in plays, or knit sweaters, but I’m positive that you’re creative. We all are.
Creativity is a part of being human. Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, you’re creating your life all the time. Your problem-solving abilities, your likes and dislikes, the way you dress and decorate your home – these are all expressions of your innate creativity.
When you repress that part of your psyche, or devalue it, it’s like going too long without a good night’s sleep. You’re just not on your game, and you know there’s something more you need.
When you consciously make creativity part of your daily life, you notice the difference. Being a conscious creator is exquisitely fulfilling. Increasing your creative nutrition has benefits in all areas of your life – actively expressing your creativity is good for your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Expressing your creative side will keep you feeling and acting young. This can have a positive effect on your body. If you feel young, you’re more likely to skip, to dance, to take a swim in the lake. You’ll feel good about saying yes to playful activities that also involve physical exercise.
Creativity helps your mind stay nimble and flexible. You might have seen the recent studies showing that the most beneficial activity to prevent dementia in old age is dancing. Not just dancing by following rote moves, but freestyle dancing – which involves a whole lot of creativity, often in a split-second improvisational manner. There are many creative activities you can do that offer that type of thinking-on-your-feet, and they’re good for your mind.
Expressing your creativity also helps you surf the waves of your emotions more skillfully. You’re human, and you’re going to feel anger, grief, sorrow, disappointment, and other “negative” emotions. Whether due to fear, lack of time, or not knowing how to handle them; from time to time we simply push our strong emotions down, thinking we’ll deal with them later. Creativity is a healthy way of expressing stored emotions and moving through them. You can pour your most potent feelings into your chosen art, releasing them from your psyche.
Creativity helps you to be more connected with the spiritual side of life, no matter your belief system. Artists often acknowledge that their most potent creations seem to come through them. When you’re immersed in the moment of creation, you fall into a timeless space where things seem to just flow. You feel like you’re part of something bigger than your ordinary consciousness, and you are. You’re tapping into the energies of the cosmos, and you take that feeling with you back into your everyday life.
Creative expression brings more joy and laughter into your daily life, too. Playing is good for us, and it’s something we do too rarely. Finding a creative practice that you adore gives you an excuse to play, to laugh, to really enjoy yourself. This is a good thing. You can really feel those creative nutrients seeping in when you have yourself a big belly laugh or a fit of the giggles.
When you stop to think about it, you probably already have creative activities that you enjoy doing, or ones you’ve always wanted to try. What are the hobbies that you wish you had time for? What were your favorite things to do when you were a young child? Maybe you don’t even need to think about it, because you already have something in mind. Good!
Now that you know creativity is an essential nutrient for good health, there’s no excuse. Get started today! Find a creative activity that you can add to your day, and devote some time to it.
If you don’t know quite where to begin, enlist your imagination as your partner in the process. Start by playing some creative games, sketching or writing about a dream you had, or spending some time playing with a young child. You can ease into this, getting your creative muscles back into shape slowly.
Don’t worry about the outcome of your creative practice. You’re not taking that pottery class to come up with a new set of dishes, or making a scrapbook to impress your neighbors. Don’t take dance classes just so you can rock the recital (you might still do that, but it’s not the point!). Immerse yourself in the fun of being creative, the immediacy of the moment, and let your joyful feelings be the reward.
Trust that, over time, your creative expressions will help you feel better. You’ll thank yourself later. For now, allow yourself to enjoy your creative playtime!
(This article first appeared on Kind Over Matter).