Let's talk about 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!
You can contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought I'd take a moment to share WHY I've begun my monthly 'Craft Nights'. A few of you have wondered, I know! Well, the idea for it has actually been incubating for about 7 years. The tipping point came because of a particular book, which led to another book, and then another book....and another.....
Connecting the Dots
But we'll take it slow. One at a time. Today I'll share the one that started the chain reaction. It's called, The Creativity Cure: How To Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands, by Carrie and Alton Barron, an incredibly brilliant husband and wife duo. To say it had a profound affect on me is an understatement. You see, it solved a mental mystery I'd been mulling over. It connected a lot of dots!
A Mental Note
Over the past several years I've watched people's responses during my Art Parties, Sip n Paints and Team Building with Art workshops. I kept making notes-to-self on the particular kind of joy that would always seem to slowly bubble up inside the participants. While they were engrossed in their creations, I'd see a shift take place. I always wondered WHY. I'd see this same scenario time after time. They'd arrive, somewhat harried from their day, then upon leaving, their eyes were glistening with life! Yes, there was some wine, and yes, I'm an incredibly awesome teacher, but I KNEW it had to be more that THAT!
The Creativity Cure answered my query with this simple but profound revelation. Here it is. Creative action is essential to increasing our levels of JOY and our sense of well being. That was it! Drop the mic!
The urge to produce some THING using our minds and hands is fundamental to who we are as humans! It connects and grounds us to our inner selves. It gifts us with a deep satisfaction of accomplishment.
The Nut House
But here's the problem! Most of the time in our technology driven, crazy-paced roller coaster, that we call L-I-F-E, we routinely neglect this need. We are apparently 'just too busy' ......so we spend an hour or so scrolling through Facebook. And we desperately 'need to unwind'.....so we binge watch Netflix. Then, afterwards, we wonder why we still feel depleted, vaguely unsatisfied and are still generally clueless about what we should do to scratch the incessantly ambiguous itch.
In The Creative Cure, the Barrons' lay it all out on the table with attention-grabbing jaw-dropping scientific evidence. Simply put into my own extremely non-scientific words, the message is as follows:
Humans must create in order to 'feel right.'
Transformative Super Powers
The creative process has a transformative power over us, bringing insight, clarity, satisfaction and meaning to everyday life. It isn't important WHAT we create, but rather, that we MUST create. Whether it's macramé, gardening, woodworking, building, sewing, knitting, carving, jewelry making, refinishing furniture, latch-hooking, leather tooling.....etc! It's really inconsequential. Psychological studies show we're just better humans when our hands are engaged in some act of making and doing.
I've often jokingly said my mission was to re-introduce people to their younger, freer, happier, more creative self. Now that I'm fueled with this treasure trove of documented evidence, and the growing pile of articles I've ingested, my mission is laser focused: Help others create their own increased happiness!
So, now you know the WHY of 'Craft Night!' And, you will also know why I'll be writing more about this!
Hope to see you at 'Craft Night' sometime soon!
Sending you lots of creative love,
My mission is to facilitate more creative interactions that people get to experience in the act of creating SOMETHING. Anything! I just want to help them use their hands to c-r-e-a-t-e. My experience convinces me that with more art, there is more joy!
Dot to Dot
Recently I read a book that connected so many dots in my head! In my years that I've lead Art Parties, Sip n Paints and Team Building with Art workshops, I've always made note of a particular sort of joy that to slowly oozed up from some unoccupied space inside of people while they were engaged in art making. When I came across The Creativity Cure by Carrie and Alton Barron, the mystery was solved!
In The Creativity Cure: How To Build Happiness With Your Own Two Hands, the husband-and-wife team, Carrie and Alton Barron explain the ways creative action is elementary to increasing our levels of JOY and our sense of well being.
It explained WHY I'd seen so many faces brighten in my creative workshops! The book clearly laid it all out. Acts of creating is absolutely integral to our wellbeing. The urge to produce something using our minds and hands is absolutely fundamental to humans. It connects and grounds us to our inner selves. It gifts us with a deep satisfaction of accomplishment.
The Nut House
But here's the problem! most of the time in our technology driven, fast-paced nut house, that we call L-I-F-E , we routinely neglect this need. We are 'just too busy' ....so we spend an hour scrolling through Facebook. We 'need to unwind'...so we binge watch Netflix. Afterwards, we still feel depleted and are clueless to the why.
The Transformative Affect
In The Creative Cure, the Barrons' lay it all out on the table with attention-grabbing evidence. Simply put, humans must create in order to 'feel right.' Creative processes have a transformative affect on us, bringing insight, clarity, satisfaction and meaning to everyday life. With great care, they highlight the truth that it isn't important WHAT we create, but rather, that we MUST create. Whether it's writing in a journal, gardening, cooking, woodworking, sewing, knitting, pottery or jewelry making is inconsequential. Just DO IT!
The 'Ah Ha' Moment
The Creativity Cure was such an 'Ah Ha' moment for me. I understood WHY my art party guests always left so much happier than when they came! I had already firmly believed that ANYONE could be creative.
We Must Do it!
After reading, I understood that it was a much bigger issue that they were discussing. Everyone MUST create! It is not about being a 'pro', but rather simply mining the sparkes of desire in us and propensities we already have. If it's getting your hands dirty in the garden, then THAT'S what you should consciously make time to do. If it's tinkering about with tools, then go saw and hammer something! If it's writing, then open up a journal and WRITE - with pen and paper, the old fashioned way. It's the physical act of feeling the pull of the pen on the paper that sends happy 'feels' to the brain. If we enjoy playing music, dust off that guitar.... You get the picture.
Talk to Me!
Grab the book. Read it and tell me what YOU think! Let me know what creative act YOU plan to get reacquainted with! Id love to hear from you.
The Art Party Rising
The rise of paint and sip stores, ALONG WITH wine and paint places in the last several years leads to one conclusion. There is an itch that needs to be scratched. That itch is in our hands. Simply put, we humans NEED to create in order to feel more 'human.'
Step -by -Step
In these various paint n' pour venues, participants are guided into transforming a blank canvas into a completed painting with step-by-step instructions designed for the beginner or experienced.
Relaxed and Reborn
Painters feel relaxed, encouraged and creatively-inspired. They tap into a part of their brain that had most probably lain dormant. They suddenly feel re-born. Participants are able to explore their individual talents and express creativity freely. The commercial market blossoms with these franchises sprouting up everywhere.
One could sure ask the simple question, 'What the heck? Why is this so all fire popular?" That's exactly what I asked myself. Deep down, I had a hunch.
But I jumped into the stream to get a better perspective. As an artist who has always loved to teach and share my knowledge, it was an easy fit. I began facilitating private art parties for adults, paint and sip sessions with wine and canvases, adult birthday art parties and diy paint parties.
Permission to Play
After several years of close observation, I began to unravel the mystery. It's this. We as humans REALLY enjoy creating. We love having permission to play. We love being given the liberty to connect with our elementary level selves and gloriously swish paint with a brush once more. We realize subconsciously that this creative play is what has been missing. It has been crowded out of our lives, little by little, year after year, one responsibility after another.
Creativity Increases Joy
Countless times, I've seen countenances begin to lift, smiles start to spread across faces and eyes twinge into twinkling through the affect of creating. Whether it's in one of my guided painting parties, a team building session, or a collage workshop, where there are acts of creativity, there is an increase in joy.
It's pronounced as if you're saying 'e -leeta.' When I was young, it was always a source of contention with me. I was forever needing to explain it's pronunciation. For a shy child, that spelled T-O-R-T-U-R-E.
'Chosen' to share
In maturing, I found my name is derived from The name Elita and is a Latin baby name. In Latin the meaning of the name Elita is: Chosen one. I love that! It's also short form for Carmelita. Oooooh, Carmelita sounds so exotic, doesn't it?
Increasing the joy levels
But I do feel I'm 'chosen' in that I have the blessed opportunity of sharing with others the joy that creativity has to offer. I wholeheartedly believe that interacting with creativity improves the quality of our emotional lives by reducing stress and increasing positive emotions.
Pale- faced to exuberant
I BELIEVE it because I've SEEN it. Over and over again! For years, I've led Art Parties, Paint and Sip parties, Team Building with Art Sessions, Art Birthday Parties, and Craft Parties. I've watched the transformation of countenances. They have arrived to events somewhat pale-faced and have left joyful, exuberant and much more fully alive. It's all because of the magical affect that creativity has on the human psyche.
So I've made a self proclamation. My mission is to facilitate as many of those creative interactions as possible because I am convinced that with more art, there is more joy.
I believe our hands and hearts are connected. They inform one another. Using our hands to engage in creative acts ignites greater joy in our lives. Whether it’s gel-penning in a notebook, stirring up a new recipe or strumming a guitar tune, creative acts allow us to reconnect with ourselves and tangibly improve feelings of wellbeing and happiness.