Monday, August 5, 2013

How to Tap Into Your Creativity to Improve Your Health

This article was published last May and has been updated to include new strategies for finding your creativity.

Break out your paints, camera, knitting needles, or whatever else you need to tap into your creativity. Because being creative isn't just for kids – it's actually good for your health.

Not only are you happier when you follow creative pursuits, but you're better able to deal with stress and have less anxiety. Plus, they give you a sense of purpose. (Source: CNN)

As adults, we can sometimes lose sight of our creativity. We get caught up in checking chores off of a to-do list or are wrapped up in our favorite TV programs.

Give yourself permission to be creative. You might feel as though taking time out for creative endeavors isn't productive, but breaking away from your daily routine will benefit you in the way you think and feel. Turn off the voice that's telling you that you're wasting time, and reward yourself for your efforts.

Find pockets of free time. If you're strapped for time, consider how you're currently spending your days, and what you could be doing differently (or not at all) to fit your new pursuit into your schedule.

To track how you're using your time, use Toggl, a free web and smartphone app that times your daily activities. Use it for a week and then take a look at Toggl's report to see if there's any wasted time that you can put to better use.

Make a list of new things you want to learn or do. Examples include:
  • Taking photos
  • Drawing 
  • Painting
  • Interior decorating / refinishing old furniture
  • Sewing, knitting or embroidering
  • Scrapbooking
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Learning a foreign language
  • Gardening
  • Journaling / Blogging (I use a password-protected Tumblr blog)
  • Writing poetry
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Soap Making
  • Programming 
  • Building websites
  • Exercising
  • Dancing
  • Skiing
Try new things until you find something that resonates with you. Look at your list of new endeavors and try everything at least once. What do you think about in your free time or look forward to the most?

Newness creates excitement. When the newness of your activity has worn off, what stays with you?

Be social. Share your pursuits with your friends and get them involved. Get together once a week to report your progress. Social accountability is a strong motivator.

My hobby is sewing, and I'd never get anything accomplished if it wasn't for my sewing group, Buffalo Modern Sewing. I go through spells where I rarely sew at home, but when we meet for a few hours to work on our projects, it's the push that I need to get going.

You and your friends may wish to create a Facebook group, where you share your experiences and plan events to participate in together.

If your friends don't have similar interests, consider joining a Meet Up group that is pursuing the same goals.

Make it a habit. Let's say that you've found something that you love to do, but find that you keep putting it aside. Try Lift, a free web and smartphone app that allows you to make a list of desired habits and check-in when you achieve them.

For example, if you want to learn how to draw, your goal may be to draw something every day. Enter that habit into Lift, and open the app on your computer or smartphone to check-in when the goal is completed for the day. At the beginning of every day, Lift will email a report of how many times you've completed your goal and encourage you to keep going.

Lift also has a social component, which is what makes it so effective. If someone on Lift is striving for the same goal, you'll be able to "join the habit" and pursue your goals together. You'll see his or her check-ins and be able to share and receive encouragement.

Hobbies not only provide stress relief, but they boast self-esteem and give you a sense of accomplishment. Take advantage of online tools and add a social component to make the process more fun.

How will you add more creativity to your life? What hobbies would you like to pursue? Or what hobbies are you pursuing already?

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