By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center
As kids, most of us had huge imaginations. We colored, drew, and let our imaginations take us anywhere we could think. We could have fun for hours on end being creative and letting our minds go wild. Sadly, it gets harder to stay creative and channel creative thinking as we get older. Life happens, and we have responsibilities.
It turns out that finding time to be creative as an adult can be really rewarding! Did you know that creatively expressing yourself can be a form of self-care? Also, creativity can help if you have depression or anxiety and even bring some joy into your life.
A lot of people don’t think they’re very creative, but that isn’t true. It’s human nature to want to express ourselves, but it may be hard to get excited about it if something you’ve made has ever been unfairly critiqued or criticized. So how do we learn to nurture our creative sides as adults?
Set up a dedicated space
Having a place in your home to work on your craft can help your creative thinking. Surrounded by your craft and art supplies, it’ll get you in the right mindset to think creatively. Your new hobby might not even be something in the home, and that’s fine! Working in your garden, dancing in a studio, going on hikes, or anything else that excites your brain are all great options too.
It’s okay if it takes you a while to find something that interests you, or if you end up like several different creative things. It’s all a process!
Be brave and take a risk
Pick a new activity to try and see how it makes you feel. Getting it wrong should be the last thing you worry about because, with enough time and practice, you’ll get better at anything.
If you’ve ever wanted to try something, like improv or volleyball or singing, now is your chance. It’s okay if it makes you nervous as long as you feel excited about it too. Don’t let that little voice inside your head try to tell you shouldn’t or you can’t because that just isn’t true. You can! You don’t want to live with the regret of not doing something that could make your life some much better.
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Give up perfectionism
Life is never going to be perfect, and neither are you. You’ll just make yourself miserable if you put all your effort into perfectionism. You can always try to improve yourself and be a better person, but embracing imperfection will make you a much happier person. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to handle the hurdles life throws your way more easily and will feel less frustration when you aren’t good at something right away. Just because you aren’t immediately good at something doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.
It’s the journey, not the destination
We’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to our wishes and desires. Trying too hard and not finding the time to relax when things don’t go like we want them to it doesn’t help. A lot of us are just too hard on ourselves without reason to be. When it comes to creativity, the journey is more important than the destination.
Like a journey, the inner process is what really matters. It should come from your soul and not your fears. Your fears will just hold you back.
How do you begin?
There are actually a lot of different ways you can bring creativity and creative thinking into your life. Free-writing is a good exercise to try if you aren’t sure where to begin, and all you need is a pen and paper. When you have some time, start writing everything going on inside your head. Don’t try to censor yourself because that won’t help you let go of any heavy feelings you’re holding onto. A good way to start is journaling or even blogging.
If you’re more interested in art, try painting or drawing whatever you’re feeling at the time. It doesn’t have to be exact and can just be a representation of love, stress, or other feelings. Don’t worry about keeping it neat — painting outside the lines is a great way to express your feelings!
Finding an activity that lets you move your body is another great idea. Dance and exercise help get you out of your head and into the present. Listening to some music or an audiobook may help too. Stretching beforehand will help begin the process of creating joy through physical activity, and spending time outside while hiking can bring inspiration.
Everybody has to eat, right? Taking up cooking or baking is a great creative activity to try. Most areas offer cooking classes, or you can ask someone you know to teach you. Trying out new recipes or coming up with your own is a lot of fun.
Entertainment is a creative outlet a lot of people enjoy. Starting a book or movie club is not only a way to express yourself, but also allows you to meet a lot of new people. Writing a book is one of the most creative things you can do. Joining an improv team or a theater group is great forms of expression that make you feel alive.
If that isn’t enough, try going somewhere you can scream until you feel better or yell everything you’re feeling. Sometimes the primal expression is the way to go!
Embracing life and yourself
Creativity and creative thinking are awesome ways to gauge where you’re at in life and the direction you’re heading. It can also help you figure out the world you live in and help to solve the difficult things going on in your life.
It’s okay if you aren’t ready to share your creativity with anyone else yet, or ever. What you do or create is for you to express yourself and you alone. It helps you enjoy life and embrace the incredible person you are.