Original Link : https://medium.com/swlh/unlock-your-creative-self-4e588639468e
Expressing your creativity in order to achieve vibrant well-being
“A creative adult is the child who survived”
— Ursula K. Le Guin
Welive in one of the greatest times for personal and professional development than in any other point in history. Other than the trivial things we complain about such as the lack of free wi-fi on a flight, too many options to choose from on Netflix, a lack of engagement on a recent Instagram post, and not being able to decide what’s for dinner on a regular basis, we are doing pretty good.
Think about all of the things that you may take for granted: Access to a wide variety of food, clean water, shelter, sanitation, family, friends, education, the internet, and if you’re more privileged and/or of age, maybe a car, phone, and a steady job.
Depending on how you have defined luck, it’s possible that you were also born into a country that gives you access to free health care, an ability to vote, and the freedom to move where ever you want, among many other basic human rights.
Yet, there is something missing.
A study in 2016 found that 47% of working Canadians consider their work to be the most stressful part of their daily life.¹
We live in very prosperous times, yet a large chunk of us have our internal pipes bursting from the very thing that is supposed to offer us purpose and meaning.
The negative effects associated with stress can compound over time when our perception and self-talk dwells on the past, fixates on upsetting thoughts, and worries about a potentially upsetting future.
Imagine working a job that offers you no sense of purpose or meaning for 40–50 hours every week, and you work with a boss that constantly micromanages you, while being surrounded by a team that offers no peer recognition. The stress this will put on your mental well-being can seem insurmountable.
Or simply imagine doing anything other than what you would label as a career or calling for the rest of your life. Scary thought.
Take into account the lack of education around personal stress management, how to navigate our digitally, hyper-connected world, and knowing when to ask for help before something goes wrong, our stress builds up like water behind a poorly made damn.
It’s only a matter of time before it bursts.
I’m of the opinion that a life predicated by all of this stress, fear, and by the opinions of others, causes us to quickly block off our creative channels.
This blockage is like when we get upset but don’t tell anyone about it. Time passes and then one day we snap, meanwhile our internal time bomb had already gone off — increased blood pressure, a higher resting heart rate, poor breathing patterns, defensive posture, and improper stress-hormone regulation to name a few.
Like a pressure-relief valve, expressing yourself creatively can help you rid of anxious energy, boost your happiness, improve your focus, and find that untapped reserve of vitality that was always within you.
It’s my aim to share with you some ways that you can start to unlock your creative self in order to start building a foundation your well-being can flourish from.
A quick note: Be sure to start with gratefulness for what you already have. Gratefulness is like all things — a skill. It takes practice. If you don’t start practicing now, it probably wont’t be any easier in the future.
Entering the creative void
There’s the story of Michelangelo that once asked how he created the masterpiece David from such basic tools in a giant slab of marble he replied, “I simply removed everything that was not David.”
Whether this story is true or not, I personally believe that it’s up to each of us to start this journey of uncovering. Metaphorically speaking. Please keep your clothes on.
“Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes.”
— Carl Jung
Below are a few creative methods that you can begin to implement in your daily life. Every method has carry over, and will have a ripple effect into other areas of your life. Some of these are more introspective that others, but that’s the point. You have to start wiring your brain to default to a positive rest.
Let’s start the process of unleashing your creative potential.
A few methods
- Gratitude journal — This is something you can physically write down, or just aim to reflect on throughout the day and really feel the emotions. Dr. Laurie Santos talks a lot about the benefits of gratitude with her Yale students, and the tremendous power that simple awareness has for our well-being. Aim to write down three to five things, big or small, each day.
- What went well & why — I got this method from Martin E.P. Seligman in his book Flourish. Very similar to the gratitude journal, this is more about addressing the actions you took by capitalizing on your strengths. Then get specific on why things turned out so well. Shoot for three concrete examples.
- Random act of kindness — Just as the name implies, go out of your way to do something awesome for someone. Again, it can be big or small. Imagine yourself in the receiver’s shoes, and how great it would feel upon hearing something specifically awesome about yourself. Feels pretty good doesn’t it? Feels even better to be the source of that giving.
- Deep breathing — Breathing is creative? You bet it is. You are literally teaching yourself to create awareness. There are so many breathing methods that you can implement in your life, all of which have different effects and benefits. But the best place to start is by simply catching your breathing patterns whenever you can throughout the day. Be sure you are breathing deep, and slow — not shallow, and fast. Then aim to notice and name what you are feeling at that point in time.
- Meditation — Become aware of where your mind is. Feel the feeling. It’s about non-attachment to thoughts as they arise — not attaching our entire sense of self to these thought(s). There are so many apps out there now to get started. I like these: Headspace / Calm / Insight Timer / Waking Up
- Controlled mind wandering— Pretty much guided self-discovery, this is a neat way of saying, “Sit down, figure your shit out, and have fun with it.” Too often our days are spent worrying about specific tasks, projects, errands, or shutting down completely while we absorb Facebook feeds, Netflix, or head out to paint the town red. We rarely sit with our ideas, seeing where we can guide them, while we gently explore the many possible actions, outcomes, and obstacles.
- Art — This is what most of us think when asked about what creativity means. Writing, gardening, crafts, collecting, painting, poetry, cooking, etc. Anything you can tangibly feel, while sharing a story, capturing an emotion, and expressing yourself in a way that you enjoy.
“Good writing is you writing to connect with who you are today by remembering who you were yesterday”
- Side hustle — A 2018 study by the Canadian Payroll Association has shown that 46% of working Canadian’s say that financial stress is impacting their performance at work.² Struggling months or years for the two dollar raise each hour, or the promotion to a position where your head hits the ceiling can only get you so far. The next step is to leverage your unique abilities in a remarkable way that help’s to solve a real problem, which people will pay to have alleviated.
Your body expresses itself through movement and feeling.
Your mind expresses itself through connection and thought.
Your soul expresses itself through love and awareness.
The journey of expanding and exploring
If you feel as if you are holding back on something you want to create, put it out there. You don’t have to share it with anyone other than yourself. But you have to express it.
By constantly stretching your creative comfort zone and expressing yourself in new way consistently, you discover much more about yourself.
Through exercising your creative outlet, you will learn about your strengths, what it takes to stay engaged, how to produce something of value, reduce anxiety and stress, and begin more conversations around the topics that interest to you.
Everything you learn through this process will be tools that you can use in every other area of your life. Sounds like a massive win to me!
By creating more, you will begin to connect more. Connect more ideas. Connect more to others. And connect more to yourself.
Stop dwelling. Stop thinking.
Start doing. Start being.
Being more of who you already are. Being more of who you want to become.
“As artists, what are we believing in? We’re believing in a conception of the universe (or at least of consciousness within that universe) that is not random, not pointless, not devoid of meaning.
We’re believing in a mental reality that is active, creative, self-organizing, self-perpetuating, infinitely diverse, and yet cohesive, governed by laws that are not beyond the grasp and ken of human understanding.
We’re believing that the universe has a gift that it is holding specifically for us and that, if we can learn to make ourselves available to it, it will deliver this gift into our hands.
Believe me, this is true.”
— Steven Pressfield