Do you feel too intimidated to start a creative project? Maybe you’re feeling uninspired? Do you think that being creative is only for the artists and authors out there? You are not alone. Many people find themselves in a creativity rut. And when you’re overwhelmed or fatigued, finding the energy for a creative outlet can be as challenging as finding motivation for a gym visit.
But creativity is actually really important for your overall health. Studies have shown that creative self-expression can help people with depression, anxiety, and illness. It may even have benefits for physical health. A study from the American Journal of Public Health looking at the effects of various creative and artistic forms of expression on health concluded that the arts have a potential “healing power” – psychologically and physiologically.
Creative expression brings us back to the present and gives a sense of meaning – it can be a form of meditation and self care.
Creativity is not confined to a certain medium or method. It is defined uniquely for each individual. Whether or not we are in a time of life that feels challenging, artistic expression allows one to feel more whole, complete and present. Creative expression is essentially a beneficial mindfulness practice.
Of course, sometimes even when we have a creative outlet, we can just lack that essential inspiration to get us started. Here are some ways you can warm up your creative muscles.
1. Do a workout (No, REALLY)
Studies suggest that exercise – especially regular exercise – can give you a creative boost. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, try a little perspiration first. (We recommend Functional Training with Rulk to shake things up!)
2. Consume something you wouldn’t normally
Yes, this could mean trying a new cuisine, if cooking is your creative outlet. But it’s important encounter things outside of your comfort zone: a book or podcast you’re not sure you’ll like, a musician or film people have recommended. You might just need something completely new to jolt your inspiration.
3. See what other people are doing
Sometimes, our creativity is limited by our personal experience or past attempts. Ask around your friends and colleagues or look online to see what others do for their creative outlet. It could be a dance or drawing class, an amatuer writer’s group, or a hobby craft such as carving.
4. Stop thinking art needs to be elite
Creative expression is not exclusive to hushed galleries, literary classics and professional musicians. These days, many people find platforms like Instagram to be enjoyable outlets for making interesting, beautiful and insightful forms of art. Even coloring books for adults are a valid way to explore your creativity.
5. Just do it!
Let go of the idea that your creative expression needs to be perfect or that you need to have a clear plan. Just set aside the time and start somewhere, even if you do not know where you are heading.
To start exercising the creative muscle, begin by letting go of any expectations for a creative project. It can be easy to impose a strong attachment on what the outcome will be, stopping us from starting because it won’t be “perfect.” The creative process is not about perfection; it is about expression. We know that expression and play is crucial to children’s growth, but it’s the same for adults. When we allow ourselves to draw, paint, write or move in ways that are unique to us, we can connect more deeply to the rich tapestry of life we experience daily. Visual arts let us explore unconscious emotions and externalize them.
Creativity is about finding unexpected connections and patterns, alternative solutions or new ways of seeing the world. Understanding that creativity is an opportunity to think differently can help loosen our expectations and deepen the capacity for growth.
Committing to a regular ‘creativity routine’ strengthens the creative muscle. Begin by setting a minimum amount of time you would like to dedicate daily or weekly to a creative routine and commit to it.
Creativity is a tool that humans have used for thousands of years. It has helped generations of humans heal from grief and to express joy, love and connection. It is evolutionarily necessary for us to express ourselves through creative expression, and finding your outlet is a journey unique to you.
Psychotherapist Alexis Naim is co-founder of the La Maida Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rewriting the story of mental health and well-being. Trained at the University of California, Berkeley, before becoming a founding clinician in the family therapy program at UC, San Francisco, Alexis’s blogs and podcasts will help you connect, tap into resilience, and grow.
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