On the podcast this week I’m talking about creativity – how it benefits our mental health and how it can become part of our self-care routine. I share some science behind why creativity is good for us, how it can get tricky when your job involves being creative and how to make creativity a bigger part of your life.
If you always struggle to make time for creativity or don’t see it as ‘important’, this episode is for you.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here.
LINKS AND FURTHER READING:
- Study by Kaimal, Ray & Muniz on the way creativity reduces stress
- Flow: The psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Monthly fiction pieces on the blog
- How to make new habits stick
- Episode 4: Finding your motivation for self-care
- Input Vs output – the key to creativity
So this week we’re gonna be talking about creativity, and specifically how it can form part of your self care routine. So we’re gonna be talking about the way creativity can help and nurture our mental health and I’ll be sharing a few tips to really help you make creativity more of a regular part of your self care routine.
So if you’re ready to learn more about that, get yourself comfortable, grab a cuppa, and yeah, let’s get into it!
Hello everyone! Welcome back. I hope you’re doing well. So we’re gonna be talking about creativity as part of your self care routine this week. And the reason I wanted to get into this is because the community I’ve surrounded myself with online are really a creative bunch. There are so many amazing illustrators, writers, photographers, makers that I see everyday online and I just think creativity has such a powerful effect on our mental health that I want to get into it and talk about it more and help people understand that, as well as being something we enjoy and we love, it’s actually really good for us and it’s important for us to make space for it in our self care routines.
So let’s start by talking about what is creativity. So when many of us hear the word ‘creativity,’ we think of things like art, drawing, taking pictures, making music, writing, all of those kinds of things. And they are all creative, of course, but there are other things that are creative that we might not immediately think of. For example, cooking. Cooking is incredibly creative because you have to put together loads of different ingredients and make something amazing,
And other ways you can be creative is just problem solving. So, if you like playing games and you like figuring things out, that’s so creative! Anything that involves playing and just getting your brain to work in a different and creative way is creativity.
And, for me, the things that I like to turn to are writing and photography. So, for me, writing really is kind of like breathing. And I remember I had a teacher at university who told us there were two different types of writers in the world: there were those who wanted to do it to get notoriety and fame, and there were those who did it just because they had to. And even if they never got published and they never got their career off the ground, they would continue to write because they needed to. It was how they processed things. And that latter one is definitely me. And, if I remember correctly, I think he said that the latter were always going to be more successful, so yay!
And for me, photography is just a real fun thing to do. It’s something that I can really get my teeth into and play around with different ideas and I guess this is why I love Instagram so much, because I can combine those two. I can have a little play with my camera and props and different ideas and then I can write up a caption to go with it. And, for me, just to be able to express myself in this creative way is really really important to my happiness and wellbeing.
So let’s look into that a bit more and why creativity can be so nurturing to our mental health.
So, firstly, it can actually reduce stress. Now I found a study by Kaimal, Ray, and Muniz in 2016 that showed that cortisol, which is the stress-related hormone, lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of making art. So what it does is creativity, it really helps us to slow down and be in the present moment. Because we often have to focus on the thing that we’re doing and, I don’t know, for me I’ve found that other stressors and worries just fall away as I’m focusing on the thing that I’m doing. And sometimes when this happens, when we’re being creative, we can get into a state of flow.
So if you’ve not heard of this before, flow state is really where you are doing a task that is slightly challenging but not too challenging and once you’re in this state, time just feels like it disappears. So I can get it sometimes when I’m writing a piece, I’m really into it, I’m loving it, and I can be doing it for a while. I look up at the clock and realise like two hours have gone by just like that. And yeah, I’d really recommend, if you’re interested in this idea of flow and you want to read more about it, I actually read a book recently that I can really recommend. And the book’s called ‘Flow: the psychology of optimal experience’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. And yes, I did Google how to pronounce his name! Because if you see the spelling, you’ll understand. But yeah, I can definitely recommend that book. It’s really, really, really interesting.
And something else with creativity, I find, is that when we’re focusing on making something, it can help us untangle messy thoughts in the background. I kind of liken it to when you’re trying to untangle a necklace. You’re sitting there and just, if you’re really focusing in on how to untangle the necklace, you might struggle to do it because it’s really hard to see, it’s really hard to get in there, but if you kind of focus on something else, you’ll just gently start tugging away at the chains, it’ll eventually loosen and you’ll be able to untie it. And that’s what it feels like when I’m doing something creative, when I’m making something. I just imagine in the background there’s a chain being loosely untied.
And, for me as well, that kind of act of following our creative passions reaffirms to ourselves who we are, what our passions are, and it gives us time to really connect with ourselves and listen to our intuition a bit better.
So now, where creativity can get a little bit sticky is when it becomes part of your job and when it becomes the way you make money. So, for example, for me, I have a day job where I do a lot of writing and I have to be creative. And then, outside of that, I write a lot of content. I write a lot of blogs, newsletters, and things like that and that’s all to try and drive business. So, for me, it’s really important to have something outside of my job that is just for me, that’s creative play, it’s experimentation, it’s, yeah, there’s no pressure on it because that’s how I stay enjoying it and enjoying being creative.
And again, for me, the things that I like to do outside of all of that is poetry and fiction writing. So I do write a short piece of fiction that goes on the blog once a month, but it’s definitely not geared towards driving traffic or business. And, yeah, I can prove that to you with the statistics on my website! Because every time I write a piece of fiction, it doesn’t do amazingly well traffic-wise – it just doesn’t attract certain people, and that’s absolutely fine! I don’t write it for that reason. And I know there are some people who absolutely love reading it and I really appreciate when they mention it but again, it’s mainly for me. I’m not doing it for my audience at all, I’m doing it for me. It’s something I just enjoy. I get to find an image on Instagram, I use that as a visual prompt, and I know that’s right, whatever comes into my head. No drafting, no planning, just kind of word vomiting on the page. And I love it! It’s just, it helps me keep my creative skills sharp. It helps me remember what it’s like to write fiction and remind me that that is something I really love to do.
And poetry is another thing that I probably have never really talked about and it’s not something I do often. I very, very rarely feel inspired to write poetry. And when I do, it genuinely does not see the light of day. I don’t think I’ve shown anyone any pieces of poetry I’ve ever written. And that’s absolutely fine! I don’t do it because I want to be a published poet. I don’t want to go into that industry at all. I do it because it’s a bit of fun and it’s a way of expressing some emotions sometimes. And I quite like having something that nobody else sees and that’s just for me. And I find, yeah, if you are finding that it’s hard to be creative outside of your job, if your job is really creative, finding something that is different from what you do all day, everyday, and that you can keep just for yourself can really help you in the rest of your work.
So now we’ve talked about creativity a little bit more and we know that it can help reduce stress and it can help you just be more creative in other areas of your life, let’s talk about how we can incorporate it into your self care routine.
So I have a few things I would recommend and, to start with, I would really recommend that you figure out what it is you want from your creativity and what you want from your creative self care routine and try and set a goal. So, for example, it might be to go on a photography walk once a week. It could be to… let’s think of another example… it could be to cook a meal from scratch once a week or more than that, if you like cooking. I don’t. I don’t know what that’s like – I hear it’s great!
But what is really important here is to have something tangible. When you’re trying to start a new habit and have a new routine, having a goal and having something tangible can just really help you in the first instance.
The next thing I want to recommend is make it as easy as you can for yourself. So, if you have any equipment that you need to be creative, have that close to hand. Maybe have a journal out next to your bed, if you know you want to start journaling more. Maybe have your camera out, ready on the side, when you know you’re going to be going for a photography walk the next day. Maybe even tie it into another habit. Maybe make it part of your morning routine, so if you walk the dogs in the morning, maybe take your camera with you and take some pictures as you walk. Just try and make it slot into your life as easily as possible, and that’ll really help it become just natural. As natural as brushing your teeth.
The next thing I want to recommend is to really not to feel pressured to share the thing that you’re doing. You can keep it private if you want. I know we live in this real time where it feels like we have to share everything and anything we’re doing, but it can be really nice to keep some of this creative stuff to ourselves, especially if you’re worried about comparing yourself to other people. And just remembering that this isn’t to earn you cool points on Instagram – it’s to nurture your self care and your mental wellbeing.
And the next thing I would suggest is, if you’re finding it really difficult, if you keep putting it off, if it keeps falling off of your radar, make creativity the first thing you do. So this could be the first thing you do in the morning, making it part of your morning routine, or making it something you do at the start of the week. Maybe every Monday morning, that’s going to be your time to be creative. And this just means when you’ve done it on a Monday morning, that’s it! That’s ticked off your list, you’ve done it, and the rest of the week, hopefully, will all benefit from you taking that time for yourself first thing in the week.
The next thing I want to suggest is getting some accountability. So, if you’re finding it really tough to keep up with it and you need that accountability – I know a lot of us do! – tell some people what you’re doing. As I said, you don’t have to share exactly what you’re creating, so if you’re writing poetry, for example, you don’t have to share the poem online, but if you want to tell people that you’re doing it, maybe ask them to join in, encourage other people to join you on your creativity routine. Doing that can really help to keep yourself accountable and also meet new people. You could even create a Facebook group where you all get together and discuss what it is you’re trying every week or every day. I know Sara Tasker has recently done this with morning pages. She set up a community of people who are gonna try morning pages, which is where you write kind of three pages, I think, of journaling every morning. And they all get together and talk about it. They’re not sharing what they’re writing! But they’re talking about the experience, and that can just make it feel a little bit nicer and a bit more exciting.
And, finally, note how it makes you feel and remind yourself of that next time you think you’re too busy to be creative. So recognise that doing whatever it is that you find creative and nurturing, write down how do I feel after it. Do I feel fired up? Has it helped me be more creative in the rest of my day? Note this all down and then just remind yourself every time you’re worried that you’ve got too much else going on, or that it’s not important, because creativity can be really, really important, especially if you are a naturally creative person. So, yeah, try and keep it top of the priority list and, if motivation with these things is a struggle, I would definitely recommend going back to episode number 4, which is all about finding your motivation for self care.
And there we have it! I think that is everything I have for you on this topic. And I just want to remind you that, while creativity can give you energy and help you feel really nourished and relaxed, if you do a lot of creative work, especially if it’s part of your job, it can be really important to take a break from it now and then and get away from it, especially if you’re finding you’re having a bit of maybe writer’s block or creativity – creative juices just don’t seem to be flowing. I know for me, because I do so much writing, I often need to just really step away from it completely to feel rejuvenated. So yeah, it’s a very fine balance when it comes to creativity and self care! There’s an element of it that can feel really good, and then sometimes, if we do too much out of it, it can drain us a little bit. So just monitor how you’re feeling and recognise when you need to maybe step away from it.
So yeah, I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this! Whether or not you incorporate creativity as part of your self care routine, if you consider it an act of self care or just something you’d like to do, definitely let me know. You can catch me over on Instagram, I’m @katbluejay, and yeah, I’ll be back next week with another episode! And until then, I hope you have a really lovely and creative week!