By Melodie Veldhuizen
Kurt Vonnegut said, “To practise art, however good or bad, is a way of allowing your soul to grow. So just do it.”
When last did you do something creative, just for the fun of it and without worrying about the end result? Sometimes we create something (or try to create something), but focus so much on what the end product will look like, that the creative process eludes us. Experts contend that it is precisely the process which contains the benefits of creativity.
Not all of us suffer from depression or some or other emotional disorder, but most of us have at some time or another experienced trauma of some kind, or sometimes feel anxious, tense, depressed or just a bit low. The dismay might be so great and the emotional experience so intense, that you don’t want to talk about it to anyone. By being creative, in whatever manner, you can express your emotions and in so doing improve your wellbeing.
There is a wide variety of creative ways in which you can give expression to your emotions. And you don’t have to be born with a brush, pen, a skein of wool, or a piece of wood in your hand to be creative. Every person possesses a measure of creativity. If as yet you don’t have a creative hobby, determine what interests you by exploring different possibilities and embrace the slumbering artist locked up inside you. Try focusing on the pleasure of the moment rather than the end product. Don’t worry about what others will say or think about it.
The creative process can in many aspects be exhaustive on an emotional and cognitive level, because you are converting your raw emotions about what you are experience at that stage and what you are think, into a creative end product. But the end result is satisfying and therapeutic. It has even more added value when the observer, listener or reader relates to it.
How to become creative
Visual//plastic art is one of the most versatile forms of creativity, because you can express yourself in one or more different mediums and experiment with them – among others pen and pencil sketches, oil paints, watercolours. It can be applied on anything from paper, a canvas and even to walls or stones. A more tactile form of visual art is sculpture, where a wide variety of materials, among others gypsum and clay, is used. You need not think and can express your emotions with colour and shapes.
Colouring-in is not just for kids. A few years ago, adults also started practising this ‘hobby’, with scientifically proven therapeutic results. Enjoy it, whether it be a realistic picture or geometric mandala or other abstract designs. Give your creativity and imagination free rein and play with colours.
Crafts include a wide variety of art forms such as origami, decoupage, collage, beadwork, stained glass, candle-making, mosaics, wood-carving or lino-printing and many more. Or make a scrapbook with photos of your family, or for each of your grandchildren.
Handicrafts such as knitting, crocheting and needlework in a variety of forms (dressmaking, embroidery, quilting) are not only therapeutic in the execution thereof; it is also therapeutic when you make it for a specific person – a crocheted blanket for a grandchild who lives far away, or a quilt from the clothes of your deceased spouse or mother to comfort you in times of longing. The same goes for handiwork like carpentry or metalwork.
Music and dance are wonderful therapeutic aids and creative outlets. Work out dance steps to the tempo of your favourite music. Or play the accompaniment to a song and sing your own words (in which you express your emotions). If you can play an instrument, put music to a poem that reflects your emotions. Write your own music and lyrics. Or pour your heart out on the piano or guitar.
Photography as creative outlet shouldn’t be underestimated. It offers unlimited possibilities to portray your emotions. The themes and scenes, compositions and the use of lighting can speak values of the emotions that you experience at a given moment, without you having to say a word.
If you enjoy writing, there are many genres that offer the ideal emotional outlet when the pain is embedded so deeply that you cannot speak about it to anyone. You can pore your heart out on paper (or on your computer). Write poems, a journal, memoires, letters to loved ones who have passed away or are far away. Or write a short story or a book. By writing you can get all the pain, dismay or feelings of depression out of your system word for word, without anyone knowing about it. You can, in the finest detail and with the most intense emotion,say what an effect a specific incident had on you, how you feel about it, or how you feel about a specific person who had a share in it.
The therapeutic value of creativity and how it can promote emotional wellbeing
- It creates the opportunity to give expression to emotions, trauma or other experiences that are so upsetting that you cannot or won’t talk about it, in a creative way.
- It helps you to channel negative emotions in a positive way.
- It relaxes you.
- It lessens feelings of tension, anxiety and depression.
- It boosts your self-image when you see the end result.
- It offers you alternative ways to get to know yourself better.
- It lifts your mood.
- It promotes your feelings of satisfaction.
- You are so transported by what you are busy with, that temporarily you forget your circumstances.
- The repetitive actions which you are performing, release the feel-good hormone, dopamine, in your brain, which in turn is the driving force for the repetition of the same action.
- It helps us to have insight into our own vulnerability and affords as the opportunity to evaluate our world view and where we fit in.
- Outsiders who observe, hear or read the end-product of our creativity, could possibly relate to it if they have had similar emotional experiences.
Pent-up emotions can have a pressure cooker effect. Use the outlet of creativity instead to blow off steam in a constructive way and in so doing promote wellbeing. So don’t suppress your creativity – in the long run it could be of therapeutic value to you and possible to someone else.
I don’t mind. https://idontmind.com/journal/6-creative-outlets-for-your-mental-health
Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320947#Physical-health-benefits
The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/creativity-as-an-emotional-outlet-1.934513#:~:text=Creativity%20allows%20us%20to%20acknowledge,related%20to%20mental%20health%20difficulties.
Windmill Wellness. https://windmillwellnessranch.com/blog/2020/02/04/how-creativity-plays-a-role-in-mental-health-recovery