How to Be More Creative and Reduce Stress

May 29, 2020

We all have the ability to create. 

Sure, it looks different for everyone, but it’s a gift that each of us has and too few of us use. 

The act of creation, of bringing something from imagination to reality. It’s an amazing thing. We not only get to enjoy the finished product and feel that satisfaction of completion, but creative activities can significantly boost our health.  Studies show that seeing the results of our labor and energy provide a huge hit of dopamine – the feel good chemical. 

Why would we ignore such a helpful mechanism? We encounter so much stress in our daily lives with all the constant decisions, challenges, and changes. There is much outside of our control, what can we really do? 

We’re wrapping up Mental Health Awareness Month, and the importance of mental health has never been more clear than during the last few months of quarantine

But, creative activities are a great way to improve our mental health, like exercise or eating fruits and vegetables improves our physical health. Engaging in creative activities can alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and even improve blood pressure. They help us to focus our thoughts and better contextualize our anxieties. 

So, how can we better engage with our creativity?   

1. Stop labeling yourself as creative or not creative 

Creativity is such a loaded word. 

The word conjures images like Mad Men’s Don Draper staring meaningfully into space in a smoke-filled, boozy afternoon haze until inspiration strikes. Or the artiste’, covered in colors and painting madly onto the canvas. 

But, those are such limited views. Being creative is not this intangible, unattainable ideal. It’s simply about creating. It’s about taking an idea and doing an action. 

And, anyone can do that, right? 

“I’m not a creative person at all. I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” 

We hear so many people say that, and they’re almost always wrong. 

They think, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist or an imaginative storyteller. I can’t be creative.’ But, that’s not actually true. 

We label and stick ourselves into a box, mostly because it’s easy. But, it’s also because we think we aren’t good at something – or it’s not worth doing – if we can’t make money doing it. 

Of course, each of us are predisposed to certain kinds of behavior, preference, disposition, etc. But, that doesn’t limit what we have the capacity to do. It simply means it might be more natural for some to engage in certain activities than others. 

2. Expand your idea of creativity 

So many of our assumptions rest on the idea that creativity is a certain thing or a particular way of thinking. But, that’s not entirely true. 

At its most basic definition, creativity is thinking of an idea, perhaps a new idea (we’re not having the originality debate right now.)

But, really, it’s all about making that idea into a reality. That’s it. 

Creativity has a close knit relationship with inspiration, but it’s not the same thing. That’s because being creative isn’t about one moment, it’s about action. 

Ideas also need to be shared, discussed, expressed, or implemented. Otherwise, they’re just thoughts. 

3. Embrace activities that spark your creative flow  

You know that feeling when you’re completely absorbed in your activity – whether it be for work or for fun? It’s when you embrace the present, focused and calm on the task before you. 

That’s your creative flow. 

And, it’s something different for everyone. 

It can happen when you’re designing an advertising campaign. Or planting your vegetable garden

Or knitting

Or running

Or cooking a new recipe. 

It’s not about this traditional, creative ideal. It’s about embracing

 activities that spark your imagination and employ your sense of creativity. 

But, the thing is that we do need to spend time doing something that gives us joy and enables creative flow.

4. Stop worrying *so much* about productivity 

We have this idea as Americans that we must be productive ~ making money ~ all the time. And, that if what we’re doing isn’t furthering that end, then we’re wasting time. 

But, we need to reframe our thinking. What we might think of as “wasted time” is often time well spent. 

Just because you aren’t doing something professionally doesn’t mean it’s out of bounds. You don’t even have to be good at it!

You simply have to enjoy it.

So, we challenge you to find your creative activity – whether it be cooking or drawing or gardening – and practice it a couple of times this week. 



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