Creative Juices

My mother-in-law, Shiela, is the most creative person I know. She sews, knits, needlepoints and, over the past several years, has become a remarkable quilter. For her, it’s more than a fun hobby. In her lifetime, she has faced many challenging moments. Through each, she has rallied remarkably and I am convinced that her imaginativeness was a strong contributing factor to her resilience.

Creativity is a powerful tool for sound psychological health. Tapping into this side—through art, writing, cooking, gardening or any other form—is important for cognitive well-being because it stretches the way you think about and see the world around you. It also encourages thinking outside the box, training the brain to solve problems in new ways.

We each choose the path our creativity will take and the process is different for us all. Although it may seem counterintuitive, connecting with this side actually fosters a sense of control in a world that is often uncontrollable. Creativity also supports personal growth by allowing feelings of a unique kind of passion and excitement.

It is therefore important to explore this area without feeling guilty about wasting time with a story that will never be published or a recipe that doesn’t turn out quite right.

Many are intimidated to start these projects because they associate them with ability, but having talent is not mandatory. It’s about the process, not the product. One of my clients, Chloe, loves to draw. She takes drawing classes and spends hours at the beach sketching boats, bathers and kids building sand castles. She acknowledges that she is not a particularly good artist, but finds that drawing reduces her anxiety and promotes a sense of calm. During and afterwards, she often finds herself able to think about life’s challenges in a clearer, more productive way.

As a child and teen, Chloe was passionate about art, even winning awards for her drawings and paintings. Then, for 25 years, it took a back seat to college, work and raising a family. Now Chloe has more time. She has reignited her artistic side and finds that she loves drawing more than ever because she no longer feels the teen insecurities that interfered with her being able to take artistic risks.

For other people, creativity means finding a new pursuit. If it’s hard to find the right outlet, start as an observer. Attend art or craft shows, go to concerts, walk through museums and gardens and read cookbooks for inspiration.

Once the pang of passion is felt, spend as much or as little time as is enjoyable and practical to follow it. Remember that the goal is simply to create, not to create perfection. Resist the urge to critique and don’t show the product of your creativity to anyone who might not be supportive. And don’t worry if the first attempt doesn’t take off, focus instead on the joy of the endeavor.

dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance.