What is Creativity?
In its simplest definition, creativity is defined as a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is created. Its form may or may not be tangible, understood or even known by anyone else beyond the creator.
Everything we see was created by someone, somehow through their idea being realized. This captivates me. There are few things as mysterious and essential as the creative capacity of human beings.
Think about it for a moment. We can create anything. We can create life or we can create a lifestyle. We can create a healthy nourishing relationship or we can create a toxic one. Our creations are reflections of how we try to make sense of our experiences in the world.
To me, creativity is about showing up, being present and taking on the sometimes challenging task of shaping and expressing who you are, what you think is important and who you want to become.
That’s why creativity, and specifically the creative process is an incredibly powerful tool for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness.
The Creative Process
The 4 step process to bring ideas to life
Stage 1: Preparation (aka Curiosity)
“Replace fear with curiosity.” — Stephen Spielberg
Everything is interesting. If you don’t feel it, look closer.
Curiosity is where it all begins. Curiosity is like the little piece of thread that you can grab onto and start pulling. It will lead you to more and more materials so that you can explore, learn and prepare your mind to be inspired.
The best way to feed your curiosity is to have novel experiences that allow yourself to see things from a new perspective. Rather than trying to understand everything, allow your brain to focus your attention on something not yet known so that you can consider new possibilities and create space for the unknown.
Stage 2: Incubation (aka Chill)
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur
Your job in this stage is to let go of your conscious and active mind and allow your subconscious to take over.
This is when you go for a walk or take a hot bath or another practice that relaxes your mind and allows your thoughts to flow in whatever direction they need to. Time and time again research has shown that allowing your mind to wander leads to greater creativity.
It’s important to give yourself space and relaxation and protect yourself from the stresses of daily life.
Stage 3: Illumination (aka Revelation)
“People don’t need more information, they need ‘aha moments,’ awareness, and things that actually shift and change them.” — Jack Canfield
This your “aha! eureka!” moment. It’s when the connections you’ve been making start to click into place and surface back into your conscious mind. You get a rush of excitement as you develop more clarity around key elements and next steps in whatever it is you’re creating.
These moments come at seemingly random times, so it’s always a great idea to have some paper and a pen or a voice recorder so that you can be sure to capture your ideas before they disappear back into your subconscious.
Stage 4: Implementation (aka Connection)
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” ― John Lennon
This is where your ideas come to life and actually see the light of day. It’s when you make your creation and bring it out of your head into real life. Whether it’s an artistic creation like a painting or piece of music or it’s a lifestyle change like implementing a morning practice or taking a class, this is where the rubber meets the road.
Although I’ve shared a simple numbered process, don’t be fooled — the creative process is not linear. The steps can be repeated, looped-back-around-to, and attempted repeatedly throughout the act of creation, problem-solving, and implementation. There is a large amount of variability around the timeframe and duration for each step based on the individual creator and their circumstances.
What is Wellness?
Wellness is a dynamic concept that encompasses many areas of life, including the physical, emotional, occupational, spiritual, environmental, financial, social and intellectual aspects of your life.
The idea behind holistic wellness is that each of these areas are connected to the others and optimum wellness can happen when all these areas of your life are in harmony.
What is Holistic Wellness?
Holistic Wellness is an approach to healing and growing the whole person in a multi-dimensional way — body, mind, spirit, emotions — as the individual designs and pursues their best life. The idea here is that if there is an imbalance in any area of your life, it has the potential to negatively affect your overall health. That’s why things like your physical health and your mental health are connected and both have a relationship with your work and social environment.
Creativity for Holistic Wellness
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
Taking care of your physical body is usually the first association people have when they hear “wellness”. This is all about your diet, exercise, physical movement, sleep as well as any supplements or medications you take.
Dancing around your apartment, going for an urban hike or having a playdate with your lover can be a creative alternative to traditional forms of exercise.
Also known as mental wellness, this is about your emotions and feelings and how you handle stress. This area of wellness focuses on how you feel, how you process your emotions, and what impact that has on your level of happiness, presence and ability to deal with change.
It’s key to focus on techniques for self-care, stress-reduction and relaxation so that you can use your experiences as opportunities to learn, grow and evolve. Maybe you find peace in a journaling practice or in making crafts.
You can eat all the kale and broccoli in the world, but if you hate your job, you can’t fully embrace wellness. We spend so much of our lives at work or thinking about our careers that when this area is off track, it dramatically impacts all the others of our lives.
Being in a state of occupational wellness allows you to own and enjoy your contributions and endeavors. It gives you a sense of purpose, mastery and autonomy as you feel personally satisfied and enriched through your work.
Whether you are committed to a 9–5 or if you want to design your own nomadic lifestyle, the creative possibilities are endless.
While spirituality can certainly have a relationship to formal religion, they are distinctly separate things. Spiritual wellness is all about connecting to something that makes you feel a sense of wonder, expansiveness and awe. It is as Brene Brown says, “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”
Your spiritual wellness is reflected in your ability to see the larger picture, cope with existential crisis, and to feel connected to something larger than yourself and your own ambitions or fears. Spirituality gives you the ability to define your values in a way that relates to your larger feeling of perspective, meaning, purpose and connection.
Perhaps you find peace and connection on long walks in nature, a ritual based morning practice, or you may prefer to go with more traditional religious practices.
This area is often overlooked until the environment is either so off putting you simply cannot stand it or the space is so soothing and calming you take notice of it immediately. Your environment can be as small as your home office or as large as your whole community.
Environmental wellness is about designing a lifestyle that is in harmony with our surroundings.
It’s always useful to weave in nature and fill your environment with living, green, colorful elements that connect you the larger world you’re living in. Or you could use essential oils and natural balms as part of your daily routine.
Financial resources are only as valuable and important as what we choose to do with those resources. Money is nothing more and nothing less than a tool to bring your dreams, desires and ideas to life. Having a healthy relationship to your finances means you are managing your resources in a way that does not create stress, anxiety or a scarcity mentality.
It’s helpful here to follow some type of system that allows you to have a clear sense of your resources so that you can prioritize and limit the number of financial surprises that can often trigger much bigger issues.
Your social wellness focuses on the health of your relationships with others. It’s about how you relate to and interact with social roles and your support network. Your relationships include your friends, family, colleagues and romantic and intimate partnerships.
Cultivating empathy and emotional intelligence are key parts of being able to understand, communicate and connect with other people.Some people find community through shared interest groups, women’s circles or through activities like improv or dance classes.
Our ability to learn, understand and develop new ideas stems from our intellectual abilities. This area of our wellness is about having an open mind that has space for new people, experiences, ideas and knowledge. Going much further than academic knowledge, this area also encompassess our culture and communal activities.
Many people enhance their intellectual wellness by learning a new language (even practicing on a language app like Duo Lingo), reading new books, listening to podcasts and traveling.
The Creative Inside Each Of Us
When we were children we believed that anything and everything was possible. It was not difficult to imagine endless abundance, energy and prosperity.
As children, we also identified as being artists and creators. There was no hesitation or barrier for a child to excitedly share one of their creations.
Why are children so great at being creative? My theory is based on their relationship to their own vulnerability. Children are expected to be vulnerable, open-hearted and curious because they haven’t been trained to follow the rules, not rock the boat and keep going — even after a “failure”.
As we grow into adults we lose our ability to be vulnerable and replace our natural curiosity and creativity with shame and judgement. We don’t realize that nothing wounds the creative spirit like shame.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” — Brené Brown
Why do we always have to qualify or set low expectations for our work. If we do muster up the courage to share our creations with others, we almost always qualify it with some version of “I’m not very good, but I made this” before sharing it with others.
Even as a lifelong painter who has had multiple solo exhibitions around the world, I’ve only recently overcome my discomfort of calling myself an “artist”. My comfort in calling myself an artist only grew when other people validated me as an artist.
I began to become curious about why. So I started to unpack it.
We all have qualifiers or conditions before sharing ourselves with others. “This may sounds stupid, but…” type statements that keep us in our fear of being overexposed through our creations.
I believe this creative paralysis is related to us losing the ability to imagine what’s possible and make an effort to bring our dreams to life.
When people think of a “creative”, they generally think of someone who is some type of professional artist or designer or musician who makes something tangible and specific.
Art is Just One Type of Creativity
When people think of an artist, they generally have associations with professional fine artists like painters or musicians or dancers. They think of professional creation of something specific and often tangible.
But that’s too narrow of a definition. The artist is simply one manifestation of creativity!
And as we explored above, the creative process is much bigger than creating art. It can be applied to art just as much as it can be applied to all the areas of wellness we explored above.
I wholeheartedly believe that if we can reconnect to that creative inner child (that we all have evidence of!) then we can start to awaken and activate the power of our inner creator and use it as a pathway to vibrant, aligned and holistic wellness.
The value of creativity is not about the outcome, but rather what emerges through the act of creation. Creativity opens so many other areas of your life and I believe that it is the missing piece for wellness.
Learn more about how creativity can increase your wellness
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