Cultivating Creativity

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"Are you a creative person?" Almost all of us will have a visceral response to this question — either to nod readily, our mind and body giving an emphatic "yes," or a feeling of contraction, of pulling away, followed by, "Oh, that's not me." "No, I wish I was creative."

As young children, we're encouraged in our creative expressions, from singing, painting, drawing, and dancing, to imaginative play. But for most of us, just as we're developing our motor skills and applying them to new crafts, someone's comment meant to protect us from a judgemental world will end up stifling our creativity, or even worse, introducing creative wounds and self-limiting beliefs. A well-intentioned adult will imply that just maybe, the "talent" isn't there, and perhaps we should put our efforts into more practical pursuits. At that point, what was once an intuitive way of being is transformed into a pass-fail achievement — and we may have experienced a confusing but lasting sense that we "failed." Our innocent, budding creativity was snuffed out.

The reality is, we are all creative. It’s an innate part of what makes us human — no matter how old we are, what society has told us, or our beliefs about ourselves.

Now, as adults, we feel like creativity isn't for us. We have hobbies we love, but we don't see them as "creative pursuits." We separate creativity from how we experience everyday life. 

Yes, we know — this is a deep and challenging place to start a blog post about creativity! But to reactivate our relationship with our imagination, it might be good to acknowledge — and question — some of those deep-held beliefs.

Because the reality is, we are all creative. It’s an innate part of what makes us human — no matter how old we are, what society has told us, or our beliefs about ourselves. Culturally, we refer to artists, writers, musicians, and dancers as creative people, but we leave ourselves out of that picture. And while they have spent many years leaning into their artistic potential, we can all practice the same philosophy in our daily lives.

Every aspect of life is an opportunity to take a creative approach — going beyond a to-do list, and feeling into the details that bring us particular joy.

What is creativity? It's how we translate our experiences through our imagination. How we bridge the gap between what is and what can be. Sometimes, we consider creativity as being specific to art — but we use it all the time. Planning the logistics of a trip. Communicating in a letter or birthday card. Growing a garden. Cooking a meal. And so-called logical, left-brain endeavors and careers like mathematics, engineering, and scientific research are also highly creative, drawing upon not just data recall but problem-solving and innovative thinking. Every aspect of life is an opportunity to take a creative approach — going beyond a to-do list, and feeling into the details that bring us particular joy.

It’s natural for our creative "cups" to ebb and flow with time, because that type of energy does more than birth art — we use it in all areas of our lives, both consciously and subconsciously. 

Especially when applied to art or music, it's easy to believe our creative expressions need to be "good" or achieve a certain standard to be legitimate and worthwhile. And yes — established concepts, such as artistic style or chord progressions, can be beautiful, inspiring, and provide a familiar touch point for co-creativity and connection, especially for musicians and dancers. But the point of all this is not to be "good." It's to be free! If we're drawn to specific styles, let's allow them to be launchpads for our individual expression. Creativity is not about comparison — it is all about exploring new ways of seeing the world around us and within us, and then expressing our unique perspectives on the inner and outer landscapes of our lives.

What is creativity? It's how we translate our experiences through our imagination. How we bridge the gap between what is and what can be.

The benefits of activities with a creative process have been proven to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression while enhancing mental cognition, releasing dopamine, and improving immune system function. Creativity activities that engage mind and body have been compared to meditation in their calming effects. Using art and creativity is therapeutic, and a safe way to help manage difficult emotions and process trauma. We can begin to express, integrate, and heal subconscious truths that feel too vulnerable or complex to share in words or conversations. When we feel creative, we are happier, healthier, and more balanced in our day-to-day lives. Creativity lets us move through emotions and the many experiences of being alive. It helps us develop our intuition, increase our confidence, and practice seeing beauty in unexpected places.

Sometimes, our creativity flows effortlessly. Other times, an activity or artistic endeavor may feel challenging. When we're not feeling creative or our "voice" is blocked, it's helpful to remember that the doorway to creativity will change from day to day and moment to moment — this is the delicious paradox of creativity itself. We may need routine and organization to provide a safe space for our wild entropy to flow. Or, we may crave to bring beautiful structure and order to the chaos. Even the smallest creative act brings meaning and mystery to the world around us by connecting seemingly disparate ideas in a new harmony.

Creativity is not about comparison — it is all about exploring new ways of seeing the world around us and within us, and then expressing our unique perspectives on the inner and outer landscapes of our lives.

If your creativity feels blocked, try approaching things from a sense of flow. When you're struggling upstream against the current, take a minute to feel where the river of creativity is pulling you instead. Where can you release control and embrace curiosity? How can you let the process be your purpose? When you do feel a block in creativity, try going for a walk in nature or try a meditation to allow the mind to be still. This calmness often helps to get the creative juices flowing.

It’s natural for our creative "cups" to ebb and flow with time, because that type of energy does more than birth art — we use it in all areas of our lives, both consciously and subconsciously. When we spend all our time and energy pouring into others through our work, family life, athletic endeavors, and other "productive" passions, creativity for creativity’s sake becomes an afterthought.

Even the smallest creative act brings meaning and mystery to the world around us by connecting seemingly disparate ideas in a new harmony.

If that feels like the case, consider looking for the creative doorway with the least effort — maybe that's painting by numbers, knitting a sweater pattern, or getting out the colored pencils and an adult coloring book. Guided pursuits are a beautiful way to slip into a meditative flow. Let yourself be a part of the process and slowly gather the pieces together without attachment to the originality of the finish line. Music is creative, but we don't have to write a brand new song to make strumming the chords an enjoyable and worthy creative act, right?

We can tap into our creativity in "non artistic" pursuits, too! Rearranging our living room furniture, adding something unexpected to a recipe, learning a new language, playing a game, or listening to music can all help us lean into our creative flow.

The benefits of activities with a creative process have been proven to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression while enhancing mental cognition, releasing dopamine, and improving immune system function.

The beauty of creativity is that there are no rules. And, we all have it within us to be creative — even if it feels sticky to call ourselves that, it is a part of our innate human nature. Can you think of one simple, easy way to lean into your creativity today? 

Calm Your Mind

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