Life is tough.
There is so much worry and sadness. Listlessness, obsessive thinking and overall lack of energy are just some of the symptoms that are telltale signs of underlying depression and anxiety.
How do people deal with these mental health issues? There’s medication, of course, but understandably, not everyone is interested in medicating.
Psychotherapy has helped lots of people but I’ve seen that 1/3 of the people who go to psychotherapy find that it doesn’t help. As Deepak Chopra noted, “75% of people who improve their psychological state do so not with a therapist’s help, but by themselves”
So, is there hope for those who want a better option?
The secret, underused weapon for dealing with life’s stresses and strains
It seems that creativity is a do- it-yourself prescription for happiness. As you learn to develop your creative capacity, your happiness levels increase commensurately.
As Andrew Brink, of the department of psychology at McMaster University, says, “Creativity is the original anti- depressant.”
Much has been written about creativity and its healing nature. In a book on the subject titled The Creativity Cure, by Drs. Carrie and Alton Baron, the authors observe: “Creative action is essential to mental health and happiness. Without some form of creative action it is hard to feel content.”
The creative self is the happiest, healthiest, most productive form of your true self.
By working creatively with your mind and body, you can burrow down to the inner source of conflicts and conundrums. You can uncover a resilience within that will enable you to make better choices and untangle the knots in which you’ve tied yourself. And while perhaps you can’t remove every last obstacle, you can be better prepared for those that remain and approach them with equanimity.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says “Creativity is the best tonic in the world. It dissolves irritation and tension, helps us heal safely by discharging emotions and the trauma of sorrow, loss and change, and recharges our energy and positivity.”
In her book Painting Your Way Out of a Corner, Barbara Diane Barry writes that creativity can help navigate transitions, and is an important tool for finding options for dealing with change and risk-taking.
Creativity is so essential because:
Why we need creativity now more than ever
Technology has crept into every corner of our lives. It has not only numbed us to our connection to our deeper selves but has deprived us of an important means of self-expression and fulfillment.
When we are creatively engaged, we are in the moment, and when we are in the moment we are open and focused. By inundating us with external stimulation, technology takes these gifts from us. Focus is such an important part of life, and it requires keeping technology at bay.
Is there a difference in types of creativity
There are many forms of creativity. Art is not the only one. Cooking and writing, for example, are very creative. So long as you are working with something involving intelligence, it can be creative.
But there’s a particularly powerful benefit to working with one’s hands the way we do in the creative arts.
Science has shown that purposeful hand use is associated with elevated mood.
Using our hands is a way to exercise our brains, serving as a release valve for psychological stress. It elicits creative thought, awakens your inner life and makes you feel calm.
It also increases your ability to concentrate and contributes to self-esteem and resilience.
So then why don’t we do more creative work?
There are a number of reasons we don’t maximize the awesome healing qualities of art. For one thing, most people just don’t understand its power.
Then there’s the fact that from a very young age, kids equate creativity with talent for drawing.
This myth is unfortunately often perpetuated by some early childhood teachers and parents who don’t understand the nature of creativity and how it evolves.
As children grow, they go through a series of natural stages. They first sit, then crawl and then walk. They coo, they babble and only then do they begin speaking.
No matter how much you push a child, he will not be able to get to any given stage before going through the one preceding it. And if he does happen to begin walking without having crawled first, then as I have personally seen, he usually will need some sort of physical or occupational therapy later on.
Creativity, too, proceeds in stages. Children need to learn about creative materials and how they work. They then need to use those materials over and over again. It’s called playing.
What happens is that adults don’t have the patience for the mess children make when they play and so they try to force more adult-like crafts onto them.
And as a result, children end up feeling incompetent and insecure about their own abilities (unless they were born with the natural ability to draw). These children grow into adults who are unsure of their creative potential and afraid to experiment with it. They also become scared to open themselves up to criticism, the same kind they may have experienced in their younger years when the artwork they created was judged to be sub-par.
Everyone is born with innate creative potential. Very few of us, however, have in-born artistic talent as expressed in the natural ability to draw.
But somehow that becomes the accepted way to gauge creativity. Mistakenly, what takes root in our minds is that if you can draw, then you must be creative. And if not, you lump yourself into the great, supposedly non-creative majority who “can’t even draw a straight line.”
So many grownups have deep “creativity scars” from their early years that it’s no wonder they don’t think of turning to art to heal their mental health.
But is it too late for us?
Sir Ken Robinson, who delivered the famous TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? says, “Most people succeed only after they have recovered from their education.”
What adults need to do to heal from these creativity scars is to first go and have those experiences they never did as children.
When I used to go into an art supplies store like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, I would have mixed feelings. I was excited on the one hand, but at the same time also frustrated. I desperately wanted to play with all of those luscious art materials I saw there, had no idea where to begin.
When you start to play with various art materials, you need to be willing to let go and just respond to the moment and the medium.
Tom and David Kelly write in Creative Confidence, “Doubts in one’s creative ability can be cured by guiding people through small successes.”
Once you get your fill of actually playing with the various mediums, then when you’re ready you can move on to actually creating.
Creating abstract art will enable you to let go of comparisons and free yourself of being concerned how you measure up.
People who feel good enough when they create without worrying about their self-worth are more courageous and take more risks.
So what IS the perfect medium to start with?
With my background as an early childhood educator and my current experience as an elementary school art teacher and creativity coach for adults, I have seen the progression of what happens from childhood through the adult years.
And I’ve also discovered what I think is the perfect medium for getting reacquainted with your creativity. It’s called alcohol inks.
Alcohol ink is a dye suspended in alcohol which works on non-porous surfaces. What water is to watercolors, alcohol is to alcohol inks.
It is a gorgeous and vibrant medium. It’s a very forgiving medium, too, in the sense that it leads you instead of you leading it. Any mistakes are easily fixed up and you use it for the most part to create abstract work.
This magical medium takes you back to your childhood “play” time, but this time to do it right. Everyone who plays with this medium falls in love with it and easily feels like an artist.
In the beginning it’s all about the process, not proficiency. If you use the right colors it’s a no-fail recipe for gorgeous abstract art to emerge.
As a creativity coach, I use this medium to help people take the baby steps needed to break out of their comfort zones.
I find that even people that have had some experience with crafts and art find this medium new and fascinating and can benefit from the journey as well.
If you want to get started but don’t have any inks you can start with some alcohol ink markers (sharpies) and some 91% rubbing alcohol. You can make some beautiful art using just sharpies and alcohol. You can then purchase some bottles and alcohol inks and prepare to be inspired.
Faigie Kobre is a creativity coach who works with people who love art but, don’t feel creative. She helps them reignited their creativity through the magical medium of alcohol inks. You can get started with her FREE video on 6 techniques to creating beautiful abstract art with sharpies and alcohol