“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.”
― Brenda Ueland
I have never been much of an athlete. Although I enjoyed playing sports growing up, I was never truly invested. That was my older brother. Instead, I was more interested in arts and crafts. My interest in art began when I was about five years old. While my brother had basketball games, I would go to Michael’s art classes with my best friend and our mothers. During that time, we would draw, paint, and attempt to sculpt. Once, we created little pouches in the shape of owls to hold our allowances.
Over time, my artistic interest and abilities evolved. I would draw, color, paint, and sculpt with whatever medium I could get my hands on. In high school, we had to either take a language course or participate in the arts. At that time, I valued creating art more than anything, so I chose to take as many art classes as I could. I continued to paint and sculpt as much as possible. Despite all of my practice, I never quite became a master. I enjoyed the process of it all, though. While I was a senior, I took a photography course. Instead of creating art from scratch through painting and sculpting, I created art by taking the ordinary world and turning it into something extraordinary. I had found not just an art form but a passion. Photography fed my soul in a way no other hobby had.
My love for photography continues to this day. Over the years, I have found other means of creativity that feed my soul. Mixing music was something a friend introduced me to. Although I was not musically inclined to play an instrument, I had a decent ear for mixing. Like photography, mixing music provided me a creative means of expressing myself and nourishing my soul. As my soul continued to be well-nourished and taken care of, so was my mental health. No matter what happened in my life, I always found a way to express my emotions through my photography and music mixes.
All of this shifted when I entered my doctoral program. As a doctoral student, my free time became limited. The more limited my free time, the less creative I could be, and the more anxiety and depression I started to experience. Creativity was my way of managing my mental and emotional well-being. Unfortunately for me, because I was so busy, I had all but forgotten how good I felt when I was creative. Recently, while feeling down and a tad lost, I started to reflect on possible tools for me to start using to improve my mood. After several weeks of trying many things, I was reminded of mixing music. I downloaded the software I had previously used and began listening to all of the music I used to mix. I fell in love with it all over again. I feel as if my soul has felt the best it has since I began my doctoral program.
For me, it is clear that creativity is good for one’s mental and emotional health. Engaging in creative outlets can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma, as well as improve brain functioning. Participating in creative outlets such as coloring in a coloring book, painting, sculpting, creative music, knitting, or dancing can help individuals enter a state referred to as a flow. Flow is a state of mind where one might lose all sense of time and self. Entering the state of flow has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety and improves one’s mood. Outside of the flow state, repetitive creative behaviors can also increase the production of Dopamine, which is the chemical within the body that allows us to feel pleasure. According to Medical News Today, creativity and the arts have been able to help individuals cope with previous traumatic experiences. Creative outlets such as writing can help individuals overcome and manage their negative emotions related to their previous trauma by rewriting the experience’s narrative.
Along with managing negative emotions, using creative outlets such as writing can increase an individual’s cognitive abilities. Writing and keeping notes have been shown to help individuals learn and memorize details. Music may also help improve cognitive abilities. Through listening and creating music, individuals can also increase their ability to problem solve and recall verbal information shared with them.
Creativity can be a wonderful way to improve one’s mental health, but it may also not be enough for some. If you feel like creativity is not enough to help manage your mental health, please feel free to contact us. We have a variety of therapists who specialize in a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, and trauma.