"Bye Bye, Stress- Finding Joy in Creative Expression”


Paint brushes with various colors of paint at Sanctuary Christian Counseling in Shippensburg PA

What comes to mind when you hear the word creativity? Often, we confuse creativity with artistic talent. The phrase “being creative” is an over used term that has been applied to all areas of life from art classrooms to boardrooms. It implies thinking outside the box or coming up with something new. In this article, I am referring to the action of tapping into your creative self, or rather your joy source.

I believe we are all highly creative beings. If you take a few minutes to think back to your most favorite childhood memories, chances are they include imaginative play and exploration that was not fearfully waiting for anyone else's approval. Have you ever watched a toddler’s enthusiasm as they are handed a box of crayons and a piece of paper? They aren’t concerned with what anyone else is thinking of their work. They find joy in the process. Often, society stifles our creative process by imposing judgment which can create fear and doubt. We might impose questions on ourselves such as, “ What if I am not good enough” or “What will others think?” Fear of judgment and shame places our focus on the outcome. It causes us to second guess ourselves or even worse, we stop using our creativity to its fullest potential or altogether. Once we realize we our our own worst critics and let go of expectations and outcomes, we begin to reap the benefits of using our creative talents. One of those benefits is the ability to reduce stress and anxiety in our lives through creative expression.

Research has shown that taking time for creative exploration can reduce anxiety and stress levels, reduce cortisol levels, slow down our heart rate, and improve feelings of self-worth. The creative process distracts our mind from the difficulties of life and daily stressors. A recent research study conducted by Girija Kaimal, Assistant Professor of Creative Arts Therapies at Drexel University, found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly reduced cortisol levels and lessened stress among participants regardless of prior art experience.

Creative expression does not just include painting and drawing, the sky is the limit! Whatever brings you peace, calm, and joy, do that and find time to do as much of that as you can. This can include cooking or creating a new recipe, writing a short story, woodworking, traveling and exploring somewhere new, developing a landscaping or gardening project, learning to play the guitar, or taking a pottery class… I think you get the idea. Creativity is not gender or age specific and does not require artistic talent.

Be careful to not allow perfectionism to creep in and simply enjoy the moment. Perfectionism can be your own worst enemy and can stunt the creative soul. Don’t wait for the perfect time, it will never come. Don't let unrealistic expectations of the outcome keep you from moving forward. Be excited about watching the process. Produce from the heart and put it out there and find happiness in the messiness. The benefit isn't about creating something perfect, the benefit is the joy that is the natural by product of the process. Let go.... create... and watch the stresses of life be released.

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