Ellen J. Langer writes in her book, On Becoming An Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity: “ I also know from personal experience and scientific study that people can, through the pursuit of creative interests, enjoy the many benefits of mindful life.”
When I read this sentence, I had to highlight it.
Langer’s scientific observations and experiments validate what I have felt, in my own heart, for a long time. In fact, her statement not only affirms the assumption on which I base my own work, but also supports one of the founding principles of Creating Mindfulness. When people pursue creative activities for the simple experience of the activity rather than to produce a determined “end result,” the pursuer experiences many of the same benefits associated with other mindful practices.
Neuroscience backs this idea, citing evidence that brain activity recorded during creative pursuits bears a striking similarity to brain activity recorded during certain types of meditation/mindfulness practices. Some of these benefits include:
- Elevated mood
- Lower anxiety and depression
- Greater sense of wellbeing
- Lower stress levels
- Improved overall health
- Connection to the present moment
The more I listen, research, and observe the people with whom I work, as well as pay attention to my own practice, the more I believe in the power of the creativity and mindfulness connection especially as it relates to self-care. By combining creative and meditation or mindfulness practices, we give birth to an exquisite tool, which can help many of us find greater joy and satisfaction in our own lives, even leading us to connection with our authentic self.
One of the goals of Creating Mindfulness is to help make both practices more accessible to the average person. In our work, we have noticed that many people put up blocks to the words “Creative” and “Mindfulness.” They often feel like these words are reserved for others, thinking that they are not “creative people” or that mindfulness and meditation are out of their reach.
So, today, I want to offer you a few quick and easy tips that will help you connect with your own inner creativity, in a mindful way:
- Approach your chosen activity with curiosity, What would happen if…
- Take a moment to notice your breath and the sensations of your body as you create. Do you feel tension, or are you relaxed? Is your breath smooth or does it catch? Simply notice without trying to change what you notice in any way.
- Actively let go of judgement. There is no right or wrong way. Your work does not need to look a certain way or impress anyone, yourself included.
- If your mind wanders off, as minds tend to do, simply redirect it, gently returning to your creative process and to the sensations of your body as you create.
Here are a few simple activities to get you started in the practice of creating mindfully:
- Draw with your breath. Allow your hand to match your breath as you draw simple lines. I like to draw my lines on my exhale, using my inhales to reset my pen for the next line. Follow your own instincts as you draw. Allow yourself to play with other ideas that come to you.
- Transform a stress scribble. Allow yourself to consider something stressful for a moment. Now give yourself 5-10 seconds to scribble wildly all over your page, as a young child might do. Pause and breathe. Return to your scribble and transform it, however you wish. You might round out sharp corners, doodle in the spaces created, or add color. Anything goes.
- Torn paper collage. Use junk mail or old magazines and simply select colors you like, words that draw your attention, or shapes of interest. Allow yourself to purposefully tear out the color/word/shape. Notice the sound and feel of the tearing paper. Notice how it feels in your body as you tear the paper. Once you have a collection of torn pieces, arrange them on a separate background page. When you have made an arrangement, which feels interesting to you, use a glue stick to glue the pieces to your page.
It is very important to keep in mind that some of what you create you will like, while other things you create, you will not like. Both have value because the true value lies in the process of creating rather than the product created. Allow yourself the space and the grace to create for the experience of creating, even if the result is “ugly.” You may wish to keep your work in a journal or sketchbook as a record of your process, or you may wish to release/let go of the work. Either is fine because you have already reaped the benefits of mindful creativity.