Whether you’re a parent, a spouse, a healer or a business owner, it’s critical to take care of yourself so you can be the best you possible. Using your creativity can help you heal, boost your mood, and reduce stress and anxiety.
Here are five ways you can use creative expression to take care of yourself – so you can help other people with a smile.
1. Ask What if?
Do a creative project that engages your curiosity. You can take art classes for free on YouTube in practically any medium you can think of. No matter what type of creative project you decided to do, ask yourself What if? What if I mix this color with that color? What if I cook this dish, will it taste good? What if I tried writing my life story in haiku? What if I made a mandala out of the food in my cupboard and took a picture of it?
2. Turn up the tunes.
Consider the way you want to feel, then think about the music that helps you feel that way. Turn up the tunes, close your eyes, and listen—research shows your blood pressure will drop and your heart will begin beating in time with the music. Pay attention to what images, thoughts or emotions come up for you while you’re immersed in the music. Don’t be surprised if you burst into tears and have no idea why. It’s good. Go with it.
3. Listen to your heart.
Have a conversation with your wise inner voice. Ask your heart what it wants you to know, and then spend ten minutes writing down all the answers that bubble up for you. This is what I did for my book Dear You: Messages From Your Heart after I went through a heartbreak. Using my creativity in this way helped me take care of myself so I could open back up to the world again and return to helping other people.
4. Experiment with what makes you feel good.
Since I’m a full-time writer, my inner critic is always on when I’m writing. But I know from the guests on my television show Healing Words at Mayo Clinic that there’s a ton of research about how good creative expression is for our mental, physical and spiritual health. When I decided to experiment with painting, my inner bully went silent. Because I was a total newbie to painting, I was able to just create for fun. It was awesome.
5. Create for good.
Dr. Lisa Wong is a pediatrician in Boston. She’s also a violinist in the Longwood Symphony, an orchestra made up entirely of healthcare professionals. At first the group just got together to play music, but then they decided to put on concerts for charitable organizations and in places where people needed healing. Dr. Wong says that was a turning point for the group. People joined because music helps them reduce stress and heal. By adding a giving component, it layered the experience with a sense of meaning and purpose. Try your hand at some form of creative expression that makes you feel good, then ask how you could use it help others. Join a choir that sings at a home for the elderly, paint something and give it away in an auction, write poems that save you and then give them away.
Instead of getting to a place where you’ve given too much and not cherished your own lovely self, try adding some creative expression to your life on a regular basis. In other words, put your own oxygen mask on first. Then you can interact with the people in your life you need to care for with a whole and peaceful heart.
Jacquelyn B. Fletcher is a mixed media artist, speaker and award-winning author whose works have appeared in media outlets around the world. Her newest book is Dear You: Messages From Your Heart (Gold House Press). She’s also the author of A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom (HarperCollins) and the co-author of Climbing the Mountain: Stories of Hope and Healing After Stroke and Brain Injury (Fairview Press) and Cancer Widow (Devlin Publishing). Jacquelyn is the co-creator and host of the Healing Words television show and a founding faculty member of the Creative Writing at the Bedside program, both administered by the Mayo Clinic Dolores Jean Lavins Center for Humanities in Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.