My mantra is Make a joyful mess. I play with mixing colors and creating goopy textures out of paint. If I like what I’ve created, I hang it up for a while. If I don’t like how it turns out, I paint over the same canvas for my next creation. I’m seeking an experience of concentration, calm and focus, rather than trying to make a recognizable image. As I type these words, my husband is making a joyful noise. He’s practicing singing a new song, and I love how his voice resonates through our house.
How do you play creatively? Maybe the garden is your canvas as you design tapestries of blooms that change as the seasons progress. Perhaps you love being creative in the kitchen, experimenting with new combinations of flavor, texture and color. Could be that dancing is your thing—cranking up the music in your living room and feeling the rhythm pulse through you. Or maybe you love writing short stories or poetry.
If you don’t have a creative outlet, I encourage you to prioritize playing with possibilities. You might tell yourself that you’re not the creative type, but this probably just means that you’re overusing the left side of your brain and haven’t discovered yet how intentionally activate the right side of your brain (for example, see the classic book Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain).
We are all designed for creative expression, and there are dramatic physical, emotional and cognitive health benefits that accrue from our creative endeavors. Doing a “novel cognitive task”—something new and different—is a key strategy for dementia prevention. Dancing is one of the best forms of exercise for aging well, creating strength, increasing stamina and improving balance. Creative play also activates more of your brain when you return to your usual work tasks and enhances your problem-solving skills (for more on this check out Bill Donius’s TEDx talk: Unlocking Your Brain’s Hidden App).
Exploring your creativity doesn’t mean you have to create something “good.” Give yourself permission to make a mess, make noise, write something lousy or dance in a goofy way. The experience of creativity—rather than the thing you create—is what matters the most for your wellbeing. Enjoy the exploration!
Photo Credit: Ermal Tahiri