Body & Soul

Flex Your Creative Muscles

Danielle Winston

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have,” Dr. Maya Angelou once said. Learn how to optimize your creativity, reduce stress and activate the right side of the brain by flexing your creative muscles.

Creativity is a way of life. An alluring yet challenging path, some, like myself, choose to follow. As a child, I was encouraged by my father to experiment with an array of arts and crafts; Dad would bring me supplies and kits to create everything from roses fashioned out of colorful tissue paper, tangerine scented candles, and nature necklaces strung with smoky quartz and abalone shells. Painting, drawing, and storytelling, were threads woven into my days. As I grew up, they served to teach me how to view life. Today, I view life from a creative lens. I see thoughts in imagery, write films, paint and rarely experience boredom. And when I traveled to Paris for the first time, instead of bringing back an Eiffel tower keychain, or the usual tourist swag, I snuck plastic bags home in my luggage, stuffed with rust and burgundy fall leaves from Parisian trees, to incorporate into a series of three-dimensional paintings.

While I can’t imagine living another way, I am also convinced that creativity is a skill that can be cultivated. Just as legendary writer, Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Like Angelou, I believe creativity is a kind of wellspring bubbling up within all of us. Since kids are expected to play, as children we were free to explore vast unseen territories; some of us were so visionary we actually created imaginary friends! Take a moment to really process that…

Our minds are infinitely powerful; the right side of the brain is where creativity and intuition live. Whereas, the left is more analytical and methodical. We use a combination of both halves in order to function in our daily lives. If you’re not expressing your creative side, then you’re missing out. Research shows a link between creativity and the body’s healing process; the act of creativity also helps us express emotions and reduces stress. It also allows us to think in extraordinary ways, and allows us freedom to generate new ideas and problem solve.

Widen your perspective and expand your possibilities. Give your creative side a gentle nudge and wake it up. Here are some fun ways to tap into your creative flow!

Activate the Right Brain

In her world renown, classic book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” Betty Edwards, teaches how to greatly enhance artistic skill through specific exercises aimed at strengthening the right side of the brain. One exercise is “upside down drawing,” which Edwards does by using a Picasso sketch. For our purposes, choose any illustration that you respond positively to. Turn the picture upside down. Use a sketchpad with plenty of space and a pencil you can smudge; begin by examining the lines, shapes, light and shadows. Don’t think about what the image is, just focus on the shapes, and lines, as you draw what you see.

Sharpen Focus

As weird as this may sound, grabbing a cup of coffee, followed by a nap, can greatly increase concentration. So how do Coffee Naps work? Studies performed in the UK and Japan, yielded impressive results. Our brain activity produces a molecule called Adenosine that increases through the day and makes us drowsy. Sleep, naturally clears out Adenosine and caffeine blocks the absorption of Adenosine. Because caffeine takes about twenty minutes to produce its kick, and the naps were also twenty minutes, subjects didn’t experience the jolt until they work up refreshed.

Increase Mindfulness

Children can spend hours engrossed in coloring books. As adults we can reignite that whimsical spark through colorful experimentation and play. Research shows coloring books create a type of concentration and flow that calms the mind and creates a joyful feeling. Whatever your particular aesthetic may be, there are a rainbow of themes and patterns to choose from. Crimson, cobalt, jade, go ahead, get a box of crayons and lose your self in color. ■

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