10 Ways to Promote self-care.
The Need for Self- Care
THAT was a topic I knew nothing about in my intense yesteryears of child rearing. THAT was what I WISHED I had known! Instead, I allowed myself to be held hostage by the incessant tyranny of urgent tasks.
Hindsight is always 20/20
Looking back now, it seems so odd. I should've known what would've helped me decompress. Creativity was there. It was waiting. But I never came. Sadly, I didn't even hear it's whistle. I had been an art major. I knew the soothing sort of calm that washed over me when I was 'in the flow' of making and creating. But somehow, it seemed so counterproductive to step away from the endless piles of laundry, diapers, cooking, and errands in order to PAINT!!!?
The chokehold of overwhelm
Overwhelm and depression create a numbness to the soul like the effect novocaine has to gums. It can step on our air hose, choke our clarity and blind us to the floating life preservers around us.
Cliff-edge isn't pretty
It took a 'toes-hanging-over-the-cliff-edge' season to compel me to turn around and begin to care for myself. Having 5 kids in 7 years and moving 5 times between continents and states built up an internal pressure cooker within me that nearly annihilated me along with anyone in close proximity!
Help was on the way
Thankfully, my husband uncurled my toes away from the precipice with his practical no-drama-needed-solution. He brought me an art table, an adorable cobalt blue clip-on light, and a comfy swivel stool. I began to draw and paint again and began to remember who I was. I had nearly lost the sense of 'self' in the wake of the constant child care.
You gotta' fill up to give out
That was years ago. But the lesson is embedded into the core of my existence. I came to understand the vital necessity of 'self-care.' I grasped the fact that it was unsustainable to continually give of myself without finding ways to replenish and revive.
As I kept creating, my heart lightened and my mind cleared. I came to trust the tangible exchange of making an art piece and feeling happier.
Finding out the why
But I didn't have a clue as to exactly WHY. I just gratefully enjoyed the dividends of creating for years until recently coming across the brilliant work of a fabulous couple who has devoted their entire career to documenting the connection between creativity and the effect it has on improved psychological well-being.
A whole lotta wisdom
Carrie and Alton Barron, wield the wisdom of over four decades of medical practice, and personal experience to unveil the ways in which acts of creating and making is integral to lifting depression and anxiety and to increase happiness.
The Creativity Cure
Their book, The Creativity Cure: How To Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands unpacks the latest psychological research. Simply put, their work broadcasts this fact. Humans NEED to create—to produce something using our hands and minds. These acts of creativity are fundamental in helping us connect to our inner selves and our outer environment.
A basic human need
But too often, in our technology-driven, crazy-paced society, we neglect this need. The Barrons document ways in which the creative process promotes healing. They unpack the ways that creating connects our minds with our bodies and explain how this gives us a greater sense of satisfaction in our everyday life.
Creativity as self-care
They clearly present the case that you need not be an artist or writer or musician in order to take creative action. The Creativity Cure is such a fabulously rich read that can be used by anyone, no experience necessary. It is not about making art or being an artist, but rather mining the opportunities in your midst and using creative acts as means of 'self-care.'
Mountains to molehills
The kids are all grown now. The house is much quieter. The mountains of laundry are mere molehills. But the life-saving lessons that I learned about the importance of creating, I now try to share with any cliff-clingers I meet!
Where are your toes?
If your toes happen to be a little too near the edge of a cliff, then here's a brief list of a few of Carrie and Alton Barron's ideas you might want to try.
10 Ways to Feel Happier:
#1 - Write a letter by hand.
Research has shown that the general act of writing by hand can promote physical and mental benefits, from improving learning abilities to increasing a more positive outlook on life. And when it comes to writing letters or postcards, the impact lasts far longer than any of today’s high tech versions of communication. From the care and thoughtfulness of the sender to the value experienced by the recipient, no true match exists for this old-time, traditional means of conversation. So, grab some paper and start writing! Besides, you’ll also probably initiate a reciprocal effect of some similar act of thoughtful goodwill coming right back to you! “Give and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:38)
#2 - Watch a sunrise or sunset then swish color.
Watching a sunset or a sunrise evokes a sense of awe and can help you slow down time and regain a feeling of having more control of your day. So take a few moments to take in the beauty. Then grab a tray of watercolors, some paper, a journal or a sketchpad, and swish some similar colors around. Don’t try to recreate what you saw, but rather simply enjoy the sensation of the water as it mixes with the paint and the look of color as it oozes over your paper. Play. Keep it simple and savory.
#3 - Twirl around to some tunes.
Even simple head bobbing to music can activate and release the pleasure centers of your brain that are actually the same areas activated by some drugs. Dance is a natural part of being human. It impacts our simple sense of pleasure and happiness. Even just spinning on the spot in your kitchen can switch your mental state to a higher level of joy. So, test it out yourself. Give yourself a gift. Put on a great tune, twirl and twist some! You’ll feel lighter and more energized with a sunnier disposition. Here’s a great ‘feel good’ playlist for you!
Try the Top 20 'Happy' Songs of All Time | Billboard
#4 - Play with some cool colors.
Cool colors, those that are green, blue, and purple, are calming and soothing. In particular, purple is often used to help spark creativity as it’s a mixture of blue (calm) and red (intense). So pick up some colored pencils, gel pens or watercolors and doodle away. You’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated. It isn’t so much what you can do, but what you do do. It’s the process itself that provides the value. If we can treasure the process of doing as much as ‘having done a thing perfectly’ we provide ourselves with new avenues for success, a heightened sense of self-esteem and evidence of self-repair.
#5 - Stir up a new recipe.
Getting your hands dirty and doing something physical, with a satisfying end product, is part of a great unwinding process. Whether it’s making a unique rendition of an old time favorites like banana bread or sampling a recipe from an entirely new genre of cuisine, there’s something to be said for the glorious mindfulness of cooking. You can put on some music or a podcast and slip into a mild trance. And when you wake up, voila!
#6 - Commit to a DIY project.
We’re hardwired to create things with our hands, and in this age of tech, our brains truly need the handmade self-expression. We experience satisfaction and a sense of well-being after we exert meaningful effort with our hands. It fosters pride and satisfaction, but also provides psychological benefits. When you make something, not only do you feel productive, but the engagement and exploration involved in the doing have the ability to move your mind and elevate your mood. So choose a project. It can be the simplest on Pinterest. Commit to it and see your disposition shift to the sunny side! Here are some suggestions for you to consider!
#7 - Dare to doodle.
Studies indicate an enormously high potential for evoking positive emotions happens through all art-making, but in doodling especially. Experiments show that while doodling, our blood flow is increased in the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s related to our brain's reward and pleasure circuit. An interesting side note is this. Tests revealed the highest levels of experiencing pleasure happened while doodling within or around a circular shape. So, give yourself a gift. Draw a circle. Take 15 minutes and luxuriate in doodling!
#8 - Say ‘Yes!” to journaling.
Writing by hand, on paper, helps the brain regulate emotion. Findings suggest that keeping a diary, making up poetry or scribbling down song lyrics can help people get over emotional distress. This act of writing accesses our left brain, which is analytical and rational. While our left brain is occupied, our right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use all of our brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around us. Ready, set, start!
#9 - Write a note of encouragement.
This item, though similar to #1, is more specific and focused in its intention. Think of someone who may need a word of encouragement or expression of appreciation. Write them a handwritten note. Did you know that receiving a compliment or verbal applause has the same effect on our brains as receiving cash? And while we can't force others to compliment us, when we give compliments to others we also reap some reward. That's because we feel good when we make other people feel good. It's a win-win!
#10 - Bake some cookies.
Psychologists have begun devoting time exploring baking as a therapeutic tool to boost levels of optimism and overall feelings of well-being. They’re finding that the positive effects they are seeing are partly due to the way in which baking provides small tasks to focus on in a manner that’s actually similar to meditation. It increases mindfulness. In this way, baking is a type of therapy that requires us to be both physically and mentally attentive and that provides us with a productive outlet for negative emotions and a safe space be inwardly rejuvenated. So, go forth and bake!
I hope you’ll enjoy these! Have fun! Let me know how they go for you! And I’d love to see pics of your creations!
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