Thinking about thoughts. That’s what we’re doing today.
The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day and 95% of them are exactly the same, day in and day out, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Creativity is so closely linked to our mental health, if we realize it or not. A lot of us wouldn’t describe ourselves as “creative,” but I don’t think that’s true. We are all idea-generating humans, so that means we either use ideas for creative purposes or let them flounder. A lot of times if we don’t use our creativity, it can become a burden. We don’t try. We don’t have space in our schedules. We’re too lonely and think no one will care if we do something we love. We don’t think we’re worth all the extra effort to pursue our passions.
On the opposite side, diving into creative outlets has strengthened my mental and spiritual health many times in my life.
I won’t be talking about adult coloring books or any other trends out there for mental health. What I will be talking about is how we practice our creativity, overcome mental blocks and start on the road towards freedom in our mental health – all through making our ideas come alive.
So how do we accomplish that? With these five things:
- Filtering our ideas.
- Removing distractions.
- Connecting with other creative minds.
- Doing what we are most afraid of creatively.
- Discovering our faith.
1. Filter ideas.
Creativity is a unique process that you can mold, mend and maximize for yourself. There is no one way to be creative, as we all know. However, our creative nature and our creative process evolve and strengthen over time.
A lot of us can be stressed by idea overload. For some creatives, this may be extremely relevant or familiar. Does it ever feel like you have a mass of ideas just simply floating around and not catching a current? For me, this felt like I had no direction. No way to escape thoughts and ideas, positive or negative.
That’s why we need an idea filtration system.
When I first started a graphic design internship and I had my first logo assignment, I spend hours coming up with concepts, concepts, concepts. One idea came and then another. It was a great creative flow – but I didn’t know where to stop. They were messy, they were all over the place, and there were many directions. With many ideas, there was no chosen outcome. I became overwhelmed with ideas that I didn’t focus on what was important–getting the job done.
My supervisor gave me some important design advice – graphic design (and creativity) is not how many ideas you have; it’s how you select your ideas and bring them to light.
Idea filtration is another form of being mindful and meditative in our lives. Let’s use our creative ideas and work through them to achieve a peace in letting our ideas out into the world.
It’s the same thing with our mental health. Creativity is a great thing to pursue. But if we are not giving ourself an outlet for the ideas we have – and more importantly – not choosing the right ideas to pursue, we are not getting the most out of our talents and path to mental, physical and emotional stability.
To put it simply, if we are stuck – we have to take action.
If your mental health is strangled by idea overload, use your creative nature to pinpoint what project or idea is most healing for you.
2. Remove distractions.
Distractions are things that limit your ability to focus on what’s in front of you and prevents you from moving forward. Distractions keep you wondering what your friends are doing or what you’re missing out on. Distractions can be anything that takes your mind to places it doesn’t need to go. They can make you hold onto your past. They drag you down. It can be regret, pain from childhood, a broken relationship. We also think of distractions too often as the phone right next to you, calling your name. Habits you try and try to change, but can’t.
I struggle so much with distraction. Can I truly focus on what I am doing in the moment for an extended period of time? Not like I used to. I have thoughts that truly don’t matter. I have thoughts that are not true. I worry. I complain. I check my phone 1,000 times a day, just to have the security that I have the whole world at my fingertips in case I want to escape the reality I’m living right in that moment.
Distractions don’t help you creatively, either. In order to best practice the art of mindfulness creativity, we need to limit what moves our minds to places we don’t want to go.
In college, I would go to the library without my phone. Go to the grocery store. I would let myself be productive without the buzzing next to me. To be honest, I probably need to do that more.
It takes a lot of intentional and aggressive effort to work through the barriers in our minds that keep up from doing the work we want to do. But we can start with the little things. We can create an environment around us without distractions. We can focus on our creativity. We can healthfully focus on our minds.
3. Connect with other minds.
Do you know what improves our health the most? The quality of our relationships. I can attest to the very, very unique healing I experienced with connecting with new friends on a couple of occasions in my life.
We are humans with creative passions, and we can use them to meet new people. Expanding our creative circles means giving ourselves a breath of fresh air. It helps us connect the ideas we have for our lives (or lack of ideas, sometimes) to something a little bit bigger. Sharing ideas is powerful. Sharing ideas is not like sharing anything else. When we share our apple with a friend, we still have one apple between us. But when we share ideas, we each get to take them home. Ideas in of themselves are the gifts we can most easily multiply.
When I was suffering from a lack of a friend group, lonely nights and empty social interaction at work, I was paralyzed. When I sought inspiration from others within my creative field, I improved my mental stability in one of the most healthy ways – with other people.
Join a community group at a church or an interest group through a public library. Reach out to a different department at work. Join a Facebook group for a local creative community. Simply connect with other photographers, designers, coaches, pet owners, stylists, athletes, etc. on Instagram and have a conversation. It’s all in the little steps.
4. Do what you are most afraid of creatively.
I am afraid to appear on videos. I am afraid to start a business. I’m afraid I won’t have time. I’m afraid people won’t like what I produce. I’m afraid I can’t juggle everything, and I’m afraid of burning out. I’m afraid to put myself out there.
But what am I most afraid of?
I’m afraid to journal.
I’m afraid to go to a place where I can be completely honest with myself. I’m afraid to start finding the parts deep inside of me that need work, help or recovery. I’m afraid to uncover the messy parts that I know are there, but perhaps I edit them out.
I’m afraid to write my story.
It takes a huge step of faith to go beyond your creative borders. Right now, if you are facing a dangerous condition, you need a dangerous adventure. Are you scared to start a dream of yours? Are you scared to connect deeply with what’s inside of you? Are you scared to come alive? Are you scared to create a new recipe, with the fear that you can’t find the will to eat it? Are you hiding under insecurity of beauty? Are you avoiding the makeup section or magazines? Are you afraid you won’t make friends?
What we should be afraid of is having fear conquer us.
That is the opposite of strength. To improve our mental quality and wellness, strength is always an ingredient.
We all have dreams – we all want to create a life that we envision and that is toward our callings. Those dreams we have are right now – but ever evolving, even if we fall.
Take control of mental illness and put it in its place. Do what you are most afraid of.
5. Discover your faith.
This year, I want my life to be full of discovery. After experiencing a hard season in life, I am on a road to discovering my next steps.
We all need purpose for our creativity.
Use this time to say that there is something bigger than your health – there is something bigger than you. My faith in the unknown and trusting in my calling to seek God and Jesus helped me see the bigger picture. We can’t see the sky if we do not come up for air.
There is a reason you are feeling unsettled when you think about yourself or your life. There is a reason, and on the road forward, you will discover it. Part of using a creative outlet is connecting yourself to the work of art you create. It’s about uncovering the good inside you and the truths about your life. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are not alone.
Related: What is Your Creative Calling?
Whatever you need to move forward is out there, but accessing it probably starts with connecting with yourself.
Our lives are not defined by a diagnosis, trips to therapy, fear or questions.
Let’s create a space in your life to pursue something bigger for your heart. Light. Love. Peace. Freedom. Let’s find our inner creative strength.