Cally Phillips talks about the importance of creativity and experimentation for your mental health. How often do you really make time to explore? How many pressures are you placing yourself under? Remember: PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST! So, stop worrying about ‘perfect’ for a while and give yourself the freedom to explore.
Wednesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. I’ve long been an advocate of creativity for mental health and so it seemed like a good opportunity to put my creativity where my heart is.
Let’s start with the simple question, shall we? Drum roll… What is creativity?
There’s a lot of rubbish talked about creativity. Over many years I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity is more a state of mind - an attitude - than anything else. I believe you can have a creative approach to more or less anything.
I start by asking you to accept the premise that creativity is not the province of ‘special’ or genius type person. Forget talk about talent. Creativity is hardwired into your DNA (well, I don’t claim to have proper scientific evidence for that, I’m being creative in the claim, but you know what I mean!) It’s something we can all engage with. The pre-requisites are being able to:
1. Recognise creativity when you see it
2. Change your mind and/or adapt your attitude
3. Give yourself permission.
But where do you start? It’s all very well to set targets and goals, aims and objectives but if you are too tough on yourself, you may get into a cycle of starting but never finishing things. Which breeds discontent.
Creativity and perfection are not comfortable bed-fellows.
Big message alert. No one is perfect. Perfection is an illusion. Failure is not an option, it’s a state of mind. And sustaining creativity takes practice.
Running out of steam or becoming unfocused is natural and can be re-framed as a message to self that we need more practice, or to be more realistic in our goals/targets.
Try ‘exploring’ creativity. If you’ve ignored your creative self since you were a kid, it may take some time to re-establish the habit - to ‘find’ your creative self underneath all that hard won adulthood.
If you struggle to be ‘creative’, or you’re not comfortable with letting your mind run free, you can give yourself a loose rule - say - be creative for 5 minutes a day. That can be motivating (or on some days terrifying, depending on your view of yourself).
If it terrifies you, perhaps look at it another way. Sneak up on your creative self from a different perspective. How about this? As you go through your daily activities, pay some attention to them and ask yourself where the creativity is in any action. You will find that just about everything exhibits inherent creativity, so think about where you can ‘add value’ to adapt it to being more creative for yourself.
Cooking can be creative. Gardening can be creative. Hell, I expect even shopping can be a creative act if you approach it the right way. You have to work out what things you enjoy doing (because yes, pleasure, not pain, is at the root of creativity). Like I said, forget the tortured genius stance. To start with creativity should be something pleasant. So find something you enjoy doing. And then factor in the creativity. Take ownership of it. Be prepared to take it to the next level.
The best creative state is when you lose yourself to all other thoughts and are fully focused on the creative act itself. Writers, artists and musicians should all know what I’m talking about. But you can get this same ‘buzz’ or ‘vibe’ or be in this ‘zone’ when you walk, cook, or all manner of activities (insert your own personal favourite).
How to get into ‘the zone’? Simply thinking you ‘should’ be able to get into a creative state can stress you out so much that you lose faith and feel the fear. I’m not the greatest advocate of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I prefer something a bit calmer.
Just think. Be aware of thoughts. The term mindfulness is all popular at the moment, as is the notion of being fully engaged in the present. They are just ways to rediscover your creative self. If you let yourself.
What about if your thoughts are negative?
Turning a negative thought into a creative one can present a challenge, I admit. If you have a voice in your head (however quiet) telling you you’re no good, that you can’t - don’t worry - we all have voices in our heads. That ‘inner’ voice is important. Listen to it. But take ownership of it too. Our inner voice is our creative self.
Have a creative conversation with yourself:
‘I’m rubbish at everything, I can’t be creative.’
‘You just have been.’
‘Yeah, you’ve just had a conversation with yourself, that’s creative.’
‘Creative? No, it’s a sign of madness, surely?’
‘Only if you want it to be.’
Talking to yourself is just a vocalised reflective activity. Own it. Embrace it. Make something of it. Say hi to your creative self.
Creativity isn’t about being good at something specific, it’s about letting your brain do what it wants to do naturally. You don’t fail. You simply change perspective.
If you need a simple equation:
Creativity = making new connections.
It’s about changing the state of things - even if that’s just the state of your mind.
So this World Mental Health Day, why not look after your mental elf? Find the inner voice and have a chat. Reintroduce yourself to your creativity. Today and every day.