by Ann Durant, LCSW
“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.
What you’ll discover is yourself.” – Alan Alda
The Importance of Creative Expression In Daily Life
We are all inherently creative and personal self-expression is essential to maintaining our emotional well being. Often as adults, our innate creativity can get blocked, diverted or stifled as we strive to cope with life’s daily stressors. When this happens, we disconnect from a vital part of ourselves. We need time and space to discover and practice our own creative expression.
Reconnecting with and nurturing our unique creativity empowers us to live more authentic, passionate and rewarding lives in which we are more fully engaged in the present. Creative expression can be a window into our unconscious and facilitate our capacity for play.
How We Disconnect from Our Creative Nature
What are the greatest obstacles to accessing our creativity? The hectic multi-tasking nature of our daily lives impinges on our creative nature. Stress, anxiety and depression can all inhibit creativity. Conversely, creative expression can greatly reduce these symptoms. Then, there is the inner critic-the bouncer at the door that leads to our creative playground of possibilities. We all have one. The inner critic represents a composite of past voices and experiences. It can be our ally prodding us when needed or a tyrant that blocks our creative self-expression. So how do we begin to quiet the inner critic? For starters, we need to increase our capacity to be more present.
Simple Practices to Cultivate Presence
Creativity flows from a state of being centered and living in the moment. Thus, the greater your presence, the more freely your creativity will flow. So how do we achieve a state of presence in our often hectic lives? It begins with clearing our minds and filtering out all the noise. Here are some simple tools to help cultivate a greater sense of presence and alleviate stress.
Mindfulness through the practice of meditation is the process of actively bringing your attention to the present moment. One of the simplest forms of meditation involves focusing on your breath. Devoting as little as 5 to 10 minutes on focused breathing can yield surprising benefits. Ever notice how the quality of your breathing changes when you’re feeling relaxed versus when you’re stressed? When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to hold our breath or our breath can become shallow. When we focus on our breath, we can effect changes in our emotional state and sense of presence.
There are many yoga / meditation breathing practices. Here are two simple ones:
Even Breathing: Equal Inhalation and Exhalation
Sitting comfortably, with your feet placed firmly on the ground, inhale through your nose for 4 counts then exhale through your nose for 4 counts. Feel free to adjust the length of your breath to a shorter or longer count that feels most comfortable enabling you transition smoothly between inhaling and exhaling. Continue for as long as you like, counting as you inhale and exhale.
Two to One Breathing
Two to one breathing has a relaxing effect on the autonomic nervous system. In this practice, you gradually extend your exhalation until it becomes twice as long as your inhalation without pausing during the transition. Begin with even breathing and then gradually begin elongating your exhalation till you reach a 2:1 ratio. Counting silently as you inhale (e.g. 1 to 4 then 1 to 8 as you exhale). Continue for several minutes and then return to even breathing.
Stream of Consciousness Writing
This is another helpful practice which can be done any time of day. It is especially useful in the morning to clear your mind and center yourself in the present thus paving the way for creative thinking and expression. This practice can enhance your awareness of your inner critic as stream of consciousness writing often contains one’s fears, anxieties, self doubts, and other uncomfortable emotions. It can also be helpful as a practice before bedtime to reduce insomnia by reducing one’s tendency towards overthinking stressful concerns.
- Set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
- Write down whatever thoughts or feelings come to mind without regard for grammar or punctuation.
- The goal is not to edit yourself, so it is important to keep writing without pausing. The faster you go, the greater access you will have to your subconscious.
- It is also essential to write by hand using pen or pencil and paper rather than using your laptop as this reduces linear thinking.
- Although it may be tempting to read what you’ve written, refrain from doing so for at least 3-6 weeks. The purpose is to leave your thoughts and feelings on the page. Reading what you have just written would risk reabsorbing or intensifying these emotions. Be patient, the insights will come later. Developing a regular practice will help deepen this process.
Remember, creative expression is not about having “artistic ability”. That’s your inner critic chiming in. Creativity is a process, not a product. It is engaging in your capacity to play. Take time to discover and make room for your creative self to find expression no matter what form it takes. Living a creative life is about embracing your curiosity, discovering your passions and allowing your imagination to take flight.
Be open to inspiration. Look for it. It will show up in unexpected places. Invite the muse!
“Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world.”
– Brene Brown
For additional support, PSI has several therapists on our staff who specialize in working with the creative process. Click here if you’d like to request a therapist referral.
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