“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Creativity has always been in my blood.

At times it’s pulsed through my veins so strongly I’d wonder if I was possessed.

Other times, that pulse was reduced to a mere murmur hidden in boxes at the back of my garage.

As I look back, however, it’s interesting to see how my projects over the years coincided with the more tumultuous times in my life. With each obstacle life threw at me, creativity is what kept me sane.

I could lose myself and hide from the worry; express thoughts and feelings I didn’t have the strength to put into words. Creativity provided a sense of accomplishment — and worth — while everything else crumbled around me.

It’s no accident I founded my most notable creative pursuit, Glamajama, merely three months after I gave birth to my first child.

All those raging hormones, new mom fears, and pangs of helplessness needed an outlet.

I bottled up that worry and poured out hand sewn and embellished clothes for my sweet little boy. He became my muse and fashion my medium.

The more clothes I made for him, the more confident I became. Not only in my abilities to create children’s clothing, but in motherhood.

Within the year, I went from selling Glamajama out of the trunk of my car at the playground to selling to hundreds of boutiques throughout the states and overseas.

Within five years, we were an international childrens lifestyle brand stocked at prestigious retailers such as Nordstroms, Barneys, Target, JCPenney, and Sears.

During those years, the roller coaster of life had many ups, double-downs, and screeching halts in store for me.

I welcomed two more children into the world, suffered a medical crisis, and went through a divorce.

During that time, I also took up knitting and crochet, delved into acrylic painting, learned some new carpentry skills, and began jewelry-making.

As I crafted, the stress melted away. With my mind at ease, nothing seemed impossible. My passion led the way as I pushed past comfort zones, made new friends with like-minded creatives, and sold over $12 million dollars worth of baby clothes in less than 5 years.

“Art is indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

So how did this happen?

Art is more than just a “pretty picture.” It decreases stress, rewires our brains, makes us fall in love, improves IQ, and increases our overall feelings of happiness.

To put it simply, art gives us the life we’ve always dreamed of.

“…we find that those who actively engage in an artistic practice report higher levels of well-being: they are more likely to say they are satisfied with their lives, feel confident about changes around them as well as future directions, have a positive self-image and a positive social outlook, and report being less oriented around materialistic values.” — Artful Living research study performed at Vanderbilt

So what if you’re not the next da Vinci? It doesn’t matter. Art is subjective and encompasses many different mediums. The key is expressing your creativity- not necessarily the end result.

And I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, this all sounds great- but who has the time for creativity?” I hear you, and respectfully call you out on that bullshit.

The reality is we spend 4.7 hours a day on our phones each day. Let me repeat- 4.7 hours each day. When you account for time spent sleeping, that’s nearly one-third of your day spent checking Facebook, texting friends, or double-tapping on Instagram.

Give yourself a break from the screen. MAKE time to flex those creative muscles you were born with.

They are there for a reason- and I can prove it.

Creativity Relieves Stress

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” ~ Hans Selye

Stress is a killer. But you already knew that. What most of us struggle with is how to reduce it in our lives. All to often we just end up stressing about the stress in our lives.

What if I told you spending 20 minutes a day coloring during your lunch break could help you sleep better, lower your blood pressure, and improve your focus? It’s true.

Much like meditation, artistic expression is successful in reducing stress due to its ability to put us in a type of trance– or “flow”- that causes us to break free from our worries, our seemingly endless 70,000 thoughts a day, and all that nagging negative self-talk that robs us of our happiness.

Art is a Natural Mood Booster

“Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer.” ~ Terri Guillemets

Art can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, just like that cute guy in your spin class. It does this by giving your brain a shot of dopamine that signals a feeling of euphoria similar to falling in love. With art, however, you get all the benefits of love without the nasty breakup drama.

In all seriousness, this dopamine boost does more than just make us happy. It can alleviate the symptoms of clinical depression. In one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”

Art Inspires Empathy

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton

Empathy is the ability to understand and share in the feelings of others. It’s also the lifeblood of civilized society. Empathy has decreased 48% since the dawn of the internet in the early ‘90’s.

While it’s debated whether the internet and social media are directly to blame, the effects are evident. Narcissism, online bullying, and racial tension have all increased as our ability to empathize with our fellow man has decreased.

In the battle to restore empathy, the pen may very well be more powerful than the sword. In one study of over 10,000 students who spent only one hour touring an art museum, historical empathy increased 6% for all students and 15% for rural students who presumably had more limited contact with the arts.

The results beg the question, if one hour could increase empathy 6–15%, what could an hour a day accomplish? Quite possibly, a better world for you and I.

Creativity Improves Intelligence

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” ~ Albert Einstein

Nurturing creativity in your life isn’t all about feeling good, it can improve your intelligence, problem-solving skills, and increase your psychological resilience as well. Medical advances such as neuroimaging have given us tremendous insight into the inner working of the mind.

The results are clear, creating art and learning novel skills create new connections between brain cells.

The more connections we have in our brains, the higher our intelligence. Not only will learning to crochet relieve stress, it will also improve your brain fitness, enhance your problem-solving skills, and allow you to foster innovation both personally and professionally.

How to Nurture Your Inner Creative

You’ve read the research. You’ve heard my story. You’re inspired, but thinking- how?

Nurturing your inner creative is easier than you think.

Find the Worst Possible Time

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst time is the best time for creativity. To wander the dark alleys of your mind, you must throw caution, rational, and pragmatism to the wind. This type of illogical thinking is counter-intuitive to everything we’ve learned about life as we face the realities of mortgages, parenting, and aging parents.

How do you check out of the real world when it’s grip is choking your every thought?

If you have the mental fortitude to jump the fence to crazy town on demand, kudos to you. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll need some assistance. Fortunately, a long day and a glass of wine might be all it takes to cross that creative chasm.

Sian Beilock, a Psychology Professor at the University of Chicago, explains the fatigue/creativity dynamic beautifully,

“…people’s ability to think about information in new and unusual ways can actually be hampered when they wield too much brainpower.”

The next time you’re too exhausted to doing anything but binge watch Netflix, grab a paper and pencil instead. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you create.

Embrace Boredom

Ever notice how our best ideas blossom while we toil away at menial tasks? This isn’t a coincidence, its divergent thinking. Boredom acts similarly to being mentally fatigued in that both states encourage a detachment from reality. This detachment, or divergence, sparks the creative fire in our brains.

In one study, researchers asked participants to copy down phone numbers from a phone book for 15 minutes. Once finished, they were asked to come up with uses for plastic drinking cups. As expected, their responses were far more creative than the control group who wasn’t bored.

Equally interesting, researchers found that reading the phone numbers aloud had an even more significant positive affect on improving creativity.

Any opportunity your brain has to mentally “check out” is an opportunity for creativity to check in. Only when we disassociate the negative connotation of boredom can we truly embrace it for the creative path it provides us.

Listen to Music

Music is a powerful conduit to creativity. It opens the door to the subconscious freeing us from the shackles of reality.

Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind, explains it this way,

“Music is one of the most exquisitely effective ways of allowing you to enter the mind-wandering mode.”

Mind-wandering mode is the highly coveted state of mind where we are actively daydreaming and detached from reality.

Once believed to only be achievable via Mozart, recent findings prove any music can elevate our minds. While music with beats of 50–80 bpm have the best results, the main criteria for boosting creativity is that you must enjoy the music you are listening to.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I hope you’re feeling inspired. Eager to find an outlet for all those creative juices percolating in your mind.

If not, let me remind you that J.K. Rowling didn’t start the Harry Potter series until she was a 35 year-old broke single mother, Stan Lee was 43 when he first sketched Spider Man, and Leonardo da Vinci was 49 when he painted his first masterpiece, “The Last Supper.”

Make something. Anything. But not excuses.

What will you create?

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