Archive for September, 2013

To be happy and less stressed, be creative.

September 20, 2013

There is a direct link between creativity and happiness. That’s because research shows that being creative stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers.

Not only does being creative make us happy, it’s a natural way to fight stress, to build confidence, and to learn more about ourselves and the world around us. The more we exercise the creative, right-half of our brain, the greater our ability to find creative solutions to difficult problems in our work or personal lives.

To cultivate creativity in your life, try the following:

Use creativity training techniques. Just as weight training makes a person stronger, creativity training can make a person more creative. Come up with as many uses as you can for a white paper bag. A chef’s hat? A comet catcher? A lunch bag (of course)? Now push yourself to 50 more. The technique is called brainstorming, and it’s only one of many ways to exercise the creative side of your brain.

Express yourself. Find a way to express yourself through writing, painting or doing a craft. But don’t overlook other forms of expression such as restoring an antique car, gardening or solving a difficult math problem. Whenever we lose track of time doing something just for the love of doing it, we’re in a heightened sense of creativity called “flow.” Flow is an ultimate human experience that refreshes and makes us happy.

Unlearn ways that stifle creativity. James Higgins, author of Escape from the Maze: Nine Steps to Personal Creativity, says that to be creative, we should look beyond certain rules in life that stifle creativity. For example, place someone in a maze, and s/he will likely walk the corridors in search of an exit. After all, isn’t that the rule one is supposed to follow when in a maze? But what about digging a hole and tunneling out, Higgins asks? Or pole vaulting? Or calling a friend with a helicopter so you can be lifted out? To unlearn ways that stifle creativity, look at the rules you follow, then look beyond them.

Change your environment. A new environment can give you a different, more creative outlook on something, such as a difficult problem. One software company encourages whole departments to take a movie break when they’re stuck on an especially vexing challenge. The employees carpool to the theater to see a movie with the understanding that no one will talk or think about the problem until they return to the office. Once back, managers say employees are so rejuvenated, they often solve the problem immediately.

Have creative things around you. Books of poetry, art, photography or architecture and other reflections of creativity can inspire your own creativity. But it’s not enough just to have these resources around – you must turn to them for inspiration. Higgins says that people who believe that their lives have become routine and dull should make use of the many resources that can inspire passion and creativity.

Identify times when you are most creative. Just before a deep sleep and after a good workout are naturally occurring creative moments. A workout increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and leads to other physiological changes that encourage an active mind. And just before a deep sleep is a period of highly creative dream-like brain activity.


Ways Writing Can Help You Heal

September 6, 2013

From the outside your life looks perfect, but inside your heart aches from the loss of someone you love or a spouse who filed for divorce. Or maybe old wounds are still simmering within your soul, caused by painful events years ago. You feel a violent emotional yanking on your heart and a labyrinth of confusion.

Journaling, it turns out, can help you heal on a number of different levels. The mighty power of words can help you to heal.

Studies show writing about traumatic events helps you recover and move on. Some of the other healing benefits you can reap from journaling include:

  • Resolving unfinished business. Writing unearths areas of hurt you thought you’d already dealt with so you can begin the process of putting them to rest.
  • Clearing your mind. Right this minute your mind is probably swirling with thoughts about everything from what you should eat for dinner to how you are going to cope with a difficult coworker. Journaling gives you the opportunity to “clear the clutter” and focus on what’s really important. Consequently, your productivity and concentration can improve.
  • Expanding self-awareness and self-knowledge. Journaling on a routine basis reveals what makes you happy or sad, worried or confident. This is important information for you to have as you begin the process of healing and growth.
  • Experience fewer physical symptoms of stress. As you release your angst on the page instead of turning it over and over in your mind, you may discover that stress-induced headaches may decrease or high blood pressure may return to normal. Your sleep may become deeper and more restful.
  • Seeing your progress. Capturing feelings in a journal allows you to look back later and see how far you’ve come. Recognizing improvement is a great motivator!

To begin, set aside about 20 to 30 minutes in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Write about what you are feeling at that moment; explore how that relates to other aspects of your life, such as your childhood or relationships.

Write continuously and don’t worry about proper spelling or grammar. Simply allow yourself the freedom to express your thoughts. Remind yourself that things will get better. You will heal. And as you do, be sure to keep writing!

(Source: 3 Things You Can Learn From Life’s Little Knots by Hunter D. Darden)