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  • Dr. Z.

Minding your Mental through Creativity

There’s something to this creativity thing.

How many times have we heard about the left brain/right brain theory?

We’ve heard that people who predominately use their left side of the brain focus more on linear thinking, sequence of events, facts, and logic while people who predominately use the right side of their brain focus on imagination, rhythm, arts, intuition, and visualization.

But science busted this myth and said there was no found proof that this theory is correct because we receive input from both sides of our brain whether performing logical or creative tasks.

So, what does creativity have to do with mental health? A lot and it has nothing to do with whether you believe you are a left or right brain thinker.

Creativity helps with focus. Have you ever tried one of those adult coloring pages? If not, this is your chance. Creative acts such as drawing, coloring, listening to music, or crafting calm the mind, and allow the brain to focus. Calming sensations increase pleasure which in turn causes the brain to release dopamine. This dopamine then regulates attention, learning, movement and emotional responses. Creative acts have been studied and are just as useful as meditation when trying to calm and refocus the brain. Creativity boosts our brain function and alleviates anxiety.

The challenge that many clinicians face when trying to get their clients to follow through with homework assignments is that the act of being creative is momentary. The gratification of the act is a moment in time and must be practiced daily. It is important to identify the creative acts that work for you such as listening to music, knitting, mending jewelry, or gardening. Clients have to choose what works best for them and their lifestyle (e.g. gardening cannot be practiced if the client does not have access to a garden). As clinicians using our listening skills help us to assist clients with sifting through activities that are meaningful to them, and can be tackled at least once per day. Clients then make the commitment to try this new method out. It’s also helpful when creative acts can be completed with others such as attending a yoga class, taking a pottery class, or knitting/crocheting with a friend or in a group. There’s self-expression in crafting which leads to positive self-esteem and builds confidence. Who knew being crafty could boost self-esteem?

Challenge Yourself.

Reading material that is challenging sets off electrical brain activity and shifts our mental pathways in order to create new thoughts. Like Oprah’s Book Club, and any other book club, its purpose is to invigorate the mind, increase knowledge, and build social relationships. Reading also helps decrease mental decline and illnesses such as dementia. Reading may not seem like a creative activity to a non-reader; let’s challenge that. Think of a time when you a read a great novel, and the author used descriptive language to convey to the reader how the character looked, felt, and carried themselves. They even go as far as describing an accent. Your brain begins to use imagery and create the character in your mind. You then begin to think whether this character is like you or someone you know. Your mind goes off on a journey picturing what the author is writing, and just like that you’re swept away and you didn’t even think of that anxious feeling you had all day or perhaps that moment when you… never mind. That’s how reading captures you, and look you’re doing it now. This is also what we clinicians call bibliotherapy. Reading has been proven to reduce stress levels.

Journaling, Voice Recording, and Photography; does it really work?

Yes! These are all creative acts where ideas are being put into words or pictures. Writing allows you to release mental clutter. It’s all the things you’ve carried with you today, the things that popped into your mind from yesterday, the tasks you need to do or forgot to do, the household chores, the work deadlines, the responsibilities of life. I often tell my clients just “word dump” if you don’t feel like writing a full journal entry. The word dump allows the brain to release all of the aforementioned in no particular order, not set structure, and no writing prompts. It’s raw, unconventional and real. Just get it out. The mind is prone to believe in the absolute and thinks that all writing should be structured, kind of like what we learned in school. Go against the grain and just “word dump” from time to time.

Creativity doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at any one thing or have any one talent. Creative acts are your kind of beauty. They’re not elaborate or profound, it’s what you like to do outside of your core responsibilities relating to work or home.

Til next time...

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