Self-care can be practiced in so many different ways; from meditation, yoga, to soaking in a hot bubble bath or going for long walks in nature. Everybody’s idea of relaxation and pleasure is different but the one form of self-care which I think so often gets overlooked is the joy and pleasure we get from being creative.
So many people shy away from anything creative, believing that they aren’t ‘arty’, but being creative doesn’t necessarily mean creating masterpieces. Exploring our creative sides can be so much fun and more to the point – liberating!
From sewing, to painting, writing to gardening – creativity is a big part of what makes us human and evidence shows that we have been creating since the dawn of time. Think of the cave paintings left behind by our ancestors or even before that, in Africa where it is thought the origins of our artistic behaviour began with body decoration; colouring the skin with ochre and using beads.
The ability to imagine and use that imagination to create is what sets us apart from other animals and human creativity has shaped the world as it is today from magnificent pieces of architecture to exquisite works of art.
There are a million and one ways we can be creative that don’t require artistic talent. It’s a well-known fact that any act of creativity can help to focus the mind and it has been said that being creative – whether crafting, writing or sewing has the same calming effects as meditation. The brain releases dopamine in to our system which is the body’s natural anti-depressant.
Think back for a moment to when you were a child; when you would happily sit colouring a picture for hours at a time. This simple act of colouring, drawing or cutting out shapes from a piece of paper is said to have therapeutic effects on the brain, helping to calm our nervous system and give us a sense of peace.
It is only as we move through adolescence that we begin to look for other ways of achieving this sense of calm; quite often in unhealthy ways like through drink, drugs, sex, shopping and socialising which can so often develop into bad habits and addictions.
But if we can return to the simple act of creating, just for fun, then we can reap the benefits that come with it.
These include but are not limited to:
A reduction in stress and anxiety
A sense of purpose
Feelings of accomplishment and pride
Can link you with others with a shared passion
Promotes thinking and problem solving
Encourages lifelong learning
Allows freedom of expression
Allows you to have fun
Promotes a sense of peace and inner calm
Allowing ourselves to be creative can feel quite liberating, especially when no one else is going to see what we make or produce. Being creative is not always about the end product; although it can be very satisfying to be left with an amazing piece of art, or a perfectly made cake. But the act of being creative in itself is just as beneficial as the feelings of accomplishment you get from what you create.
Just like meditation and mindfulness, the time we spend head-down focussing on colouring or drawing, writing or doodling, brings our awareness into the here and now, and out of the past or the future. We are in total concentration and our minds are quiet. Do you ever pick up a pen and doodle as you talk to someone on the phone? Do you notice the calming effect this has on you?
I am not for one minute suggesting that we should all be creating big works of art, or setting ourselves the challenge of creating something beautiful and ground-breaking. What I am suggesting is that we think about creativity as another thing we can add to the ‘tool kit’ – another way we can focus our minds, minimising the chatter going on in our heads and lose ourselves in the joy of creating.
If you are willing to get creative, there are all sorts of colouring books for adults available to buy these days or for those that want to learn a new skill; there are countless tutorials on YouTube. From knitting and crocheting, to dotting and marbling and everything in between, there are a million ways you can put your creativity to the test.
Whichever creative activity we choose to engage in, I am positive that we will reap the benefits and at a time when so many people are struggling with their mental health, I think self-care is needed now more than ever before.
Read more from Janine in her relatable and helpful book, Embracing Life In Lockdown
Janine is a trainee person-centred counsellor, in the final stages of her level 4 diploma. She came to the world of counselling through her own personal experience of mental health issues, following the breakdown of her marriage and subsequent divorce. Counselling and the ability to empower others struck a chord with her and she has completely changed her path in life to follow her dream of helping others. She loves music, the arts and is a keen writer. She has written a book to help people with anxiety related to the lockdowns that we are experiencing. She also is a keen blogger. Get in touch with Janine via Twitter, Facebook