We all aspire to be happy and fulfilled, but we mostly pursue the promise of happiness in external things: shiny new cars, bigger homes or fashionable clothes.
But, as we all know, even the luster of the shiniest baubles soon fades. So what can we do to uplift our spirit when so many of us collapse in bed at night feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed.
The remedy may lie with observing our children, especially toddlers (our own or someone else’s). A drug-free, simple, playful way to heal the emotional and physical toll of the distractions and stress in society is the lighthearted pursuit of activities many of us abandoned in childhood: painting, singing and dancing.
The answer, neuroscience tells us, is creative play. Creative expression heals — be it playing the piano, writing a poem, taking a salsa class or painting with watercolors.
This isn’t New Age feel-good woo-woo. It’s the analysis of more than 100 research studies reviewed by the American Journal of Public Health, titled “The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health.”
The need to unwind is more pressing than ever.
“Here’s a startling fact,” Jay Kumar writes in “Brain, Body & Being.” “In our modern, 24/7 high-tech world, the average person is bombarded with the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data every day! That’s five times the amount of sensory information a person received just 30 years ago.”
In “Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity,” James Clear explains at The Huffington Post why creative expression is a remedy: “Creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.
“Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. If you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.
“Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.
“Build something. Share something. Craft something. Make more art. Your health and happiness will improve and we’ll all be better off for it.”
Clear writes that studies demonstrate that creative pursuits “redirect our focus, and distract us from thoughts of grief, stress or physical pain.”
Creative expression not only benefits our mood, but our physical health. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine demonstrated how creative writing has been shown to boost the immune system for people with HIV. In other words, creative expression doesn’t just make you feel better; it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.
My own experience is that connecting with my inner artist through meditation was akin to finding my own personal Eden. When I paint, I experience it as a kind of bath for my mind.
Much like meditation, being with color shifts my relationship with time. By tapping my unbridled imagination, I drop into an experience of flow. I’ve found that it’s when I’m alone with my paints and brushes that I truly experience G-d’s presence within.
What if you don’t feel like you’re a creative person?
Expand your concept of creativity. It’s far broader than painting.
Life offers us untold opportunities to express our creativity. Arrange some fresh flowers, take photos of your grandchildren, peruse a new furniture store or bake some delicious rugelach.
Gedalia Genin is a holistic healer and ayurvedic health specialist who sparks new pathways to women’s health and vitality. Contact her at www.gedaliahhealingarts.com or 404-528-1483.