The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that “when we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.”
I can certainly vouch for that.
The times when I feel the most alive, energised, ‘in the flow’ and relaxed are usually when I’m doing something creative.
I love to knit, crochet and sew, and one of my favourite pastimes is making knitted toys and little rag dolls to give away as gifts. These activities really help me to switch off and unwind, and they fill me with a deep sense of joy and satisfaction.
Some years ago, my life became seriously unbalanced. My workaholic tendencies completely took over, and I found myself working and studying all the time. This left no room for creativity.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that my stress levels had started to increase; I felt flat all the time and struggled to connect to joy. That old proverb ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ certainly rang true for me.
These days, I consciously build time into my busy schedule for my creative pursuits. And I encourage those I work with to do the same.
More often than not, however, my advice is met with one of two responses: “But I’m not creative” or “I’m no good at creative activities.”
Somewhere along the line, many people have fallen under the illusion that creativity only belongs to the musicians, poets, artists and inventors amongst us. That being creative is limited to a few select activities.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Creativity is the absolute essence of who we are as human beings.
Any time you use your imagination to bring something into being that is infused with your unique personality or present something to the world that comes from your inner being, you are being creative.
At the simplest level, even speaking is an expression of your creativity. The thought first exists in your mind; you then consciously decide how you are going to articulate it, and then you give it form through your voice.
The truth is, we all have unique gifts and talents that are waiting to be expressed. The real issue is what you choose to do with them.
Are you aware of the creative aspects of your soul?
Do you acknowledge your skills and abilities, or are they lying dormant and hidden, quietly waiting to be discovered?
To bring more of your creative self into your everyday life, all you have to do is engage your mind and body in anything that encapsulates the true essence of who you are; anything that brings you pleasure.
Here are a few suggestions.
If you already know what lights you up and brings you joy, it’s simple: make more time for it in your life. Many of us allow the busyness and demands of life to get in our way, but spending even short amounts of time on your hobbies on a regular basis is the highest quality me time you can get.
If you have lost touch with that part of yourself, think back to your childhood. We were all in touch with that aspect of ourselves when we were young. What did you love to do? Did you enjoy making art, playing music, writing stories or being in the garden?
When I did this exercise, I discovered I had fond memories of doing woodwork in primary school! (I do come from a long line of carpenters so that’s hardly surprising.)
If you’re still struggling to come up with ideas, then try something new. You may have to step out of your comfort zone, but how do you know you do not love to sing, sculpt or paint, for example, if you’ve never tried?
A great way to learn a new skill or make time for a hobby is to join a local class. You get to meet like-minded people and get away from the humdrum of daily life for a while. Adult education centres, colleges and community settings all offer classes, or you could take up an online class.
Many years ago, I realised that if I wanted to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled life, I had to create space for my hobbies.
It was a necessity, not a luxury. Because when life is crammed with endless duties, obligations and responsibilities without any outlet for our unique soul expression, there can be no true relaxation, joy or balance.
Furthermore, research shows that engaging in creative activities has wide-ranging positive effects on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. They:
Reduce stress and anxiety.
Whenever you do something where you lose all sense of time and of yourself, you experience being ‘in the flow’. It could be anything – cooking a meal or constructing a piece of furniture, for instance. Not only does this slow your heart rate and reduce anxiety, it also rejuvenates and regenerates your brain, allowing you to return to your everyday tasks and responsibilities with renewed energy and focus.
Engaging in a creative act, such as crafting, sculpting or even piecing together a jigsaw, can have a meditative effect on the mind, inducing feelings of calmness and a sense of inner quiet.
Improve your mood.
When you succeed in creating a result from a repetitive creative task, for example sewing or making a piece of jewellery, your brain is flooded with dopamine, a natural feel-good chemical. The high you experience both motivates you and lifts your emotional state.
Increase your confidence levels.
Even with natural talent it takes patience and commitment to master a skill, say woodwork or flower arranging. But the more you practise, the better you become. Over time improving your skills gives you confidence in your capabilities, and this confidence can spill over into other areas of your life, e.g. at work.
Boost your immune system.
There’s some evidence that certain kinds of activities, such as journalling and listening to music, support stronger immune system functioning.
Help you to process traumatic experiences.
It’s now well established that participating in the creative and expressive arts (music, drama, writing and visual arts) can help you deal with trauma and mitigate its adverse effects. When thoughts and feelings are too painful to put into words, these activities have a profound therapeutic value in allowing you to process negative emotions in a productive way.
Open the door to your self-expression.
Allowing yourself the freedom to explore your creative side, letting go of rules and notions of right and wrong, is the gateway to your authentic self. In this place you can also meet the parts of yourself that you judge, dislike and keep carefully hidden from others (in other words, your shadow self) and learn to befriend and accept them.
So, don’t procrastinate any longer.
Carve out some time in your diary.
Tap into your creative potential and find the fulfilment and well-being that only comes from this kind of expression.
As Deepak Chopra reminds us,