Creativity as Healing

Published in The Resiliency Center Newsletter in May 2009

Our Innate Creativity

Every person is innately creative. As children, we naturally express ourselves through art, music, dance, creating stories, and building imaginary worlds. We enjoy the process of creating without criticizing the outcome. However, along the way from childhood to adulthood, many of us receive messages that discourage our natural creativity—such as teacher criticisms of our efforts; parents saying, “What a nice tree” when we draw a crocodile; and adults claiming that pursuing the arts professionally is not a real choice.

mada DSC_0611From these early messages, we may conclude that creative expression is reserved only for the extraordinarily talented. This is simply not true. Everyone has within them the capacity for creativity, and there are unlimited pathways to for creative self-expression. Creative activities can include dancing, singing, drawing cartoons, journaling, knitting, gardening, karaoke, playing the guitar, writing knock-knock jokes, decorating one’s home, making jewelry, and building furniture—to name just a few!

When we play and create, we allow ourselves to feel, to be spontaneous, and to take time out from our busy schedules and our many responsibilities to just be. Creativity is an important part of wellness, and creative expression has been found to reduce stress, promote health, and even improve the functioning of our immune system!

Creative forms of expression are so powerful because they can help us tap into parts of ourselves that thinking and talking cannot always access. For example, an individual who is drumming may become so absorbed in the rhythm that he no longer feels anxious, and someone who spends ten minutes scribbling may have feelings of anger surface and then be released through the movement of the crayons.

Using Creativity in Workshops

When leading workshops, I always include opportunities to play and be creative—everything from drumming to guided visualization to collage projects. Many participants remark that they have not used crayons or made art since they were children. Once given permission to experiment with color and design and texture, their imaginations break open and they become thoroughly engaged in the process, having fun with the glitter, pastels, and stickers, laughing, accessing energy they did not realize they had, and creating visions that serve to inspire them. All that is required for this kind of joy are the supplies, the time, and the permission from oneself to create. Singing and playing music also provide a fun and cathartic way to express oneself and release emotions. I have observed the initial reluctance people have when they see drums, tambourines, bells, and shakers before them. Within the safety of the group, however, people begin to experiment with sounds and movement, sing, find their natural rhythms, and move together as a community towards harmony. Afterwards, they report feeling more energized, joyful, and connected to one another.

Creative Vision Boards

Creative visioning is a powerful way to access our dreams for the future. As an experiment, I suggest you create a vision board for yourself. A vision board is a collection of pictures, words, and images representing all that you desire in your ideal future—from specific things like a car, vacation, and massage to symbolic images like a calm lake for serenity and a picture of two people laughing for a healthy relationship. Gather old magazines, scissors, posterboard, and glue—then choose things that appeal to you, and begin creating your vision. Include a photo of yourself, write the statement, “I deserve all this and better,” and then sign and date this fabulous blueprint for your future. Hang it at eye level where you will see it daily, and you will find that your life begins to move closer to the vision you have created. Have fun with it! And feel free to send me updates about the many miracles you experience as a result.

This month (and every month), I invite you to take time out for yourself to explore your innate creativity—whether by painting, singing, writing, dancing, or doing anything else that pleases you and brings peace and joy to your heart.