It’s true: creativity makes mindfulness easier. Mindfulness is a way of being that you develop and hone, and as you do, you begin to experience inner peace amidst stress and problems you can’t control. Mindfulness is a basic as shifting your attention from anxieties and stress to your objective moment (the present moment exactly as it is, without all-too-human negative thoughts and judgments imposed upon it.) The idea is deceptively simple. Living it is often challenging, especially when we regularly experience stress and related anxious thoughts. We need ways to hone our ability to be mindful. One powerful way is by tapping into creativity—and enjoying it. Here’s a look at why creativity makes mindfulness easier so you can reduce anxiety and stress and enhance mental health and wellbeing.
The Nature of Mindfulness
Anxiety and stress keep us trapped in the past or the future. The worry we are suffering isn’t actually about right now, and it isn’t tangible or completely accurate. It’s blown out of proportion by automatic negative thoughts we impose upon our moments.
Mindfulness keeps us grounded in the real, tangible, present moment because, rather than getting caught up in thoughts and worries, we pay attention on purpose to the objective things around us (not our subjective thoughts about them). Mindfulness:
- Uses the senses to pull us out of our head and into the physical moment
- Relaxes us and releases us from anxious thoughts and stress
- Is deceptively simple because the mind wants to return to anxious thoughts
- Can be difficult when we feel we just can’t keep our mind on the present
This is where creativity comes rushing to the rescue. Getting creative reduces stress and anxiety by allowing us to pay attention to what we are doing rather than what we are thinking.
What Is it About Creativity That Makes Mindfulness Easier?
Creativity involves generating from within something new in your world. You use your imagination and ideas to make something positive.
Stress and anxiety also involve using our imagination to generate something new, but this new thing is negative and doesn’t contribute to a quality life. After a talk with the boss about something that didn’t go well, the human imagination comes up with all sorts of worries, what-ifs and worst-case scenarios. Too often, we stay trapped in this stressful world where problems dominate, and we forget to come back. We don’t create or experience joy on a regular basis.
When we take time to let our imaginations run in a positive direction—when we allow ourselves to be creative—we reduce stress and anxiety. One of the great things creativity does for us, far greater than any product we make, is to give us an opportunity to be mindful and simply be.
- Require the use of our senses: we see, touch, hear, smell, and maybe even taste
- Are enjoyable
- Allow us to experience flow (“being in the zone”), a state of being described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in which we are fully engrossed in what we are doing and all other thoughts drop away
When we’re not used to pulling our attention away from problems and negative thoughts in order to immerse ourselves in the present moment, it can be quite difficult. Unless, of course, we have something to do, some means of concentrating actively on what’s tangible. Enter creativity. When we are using our mind to project something into the world, we are experiencing the ultimate mindful state of being. A relaxed state of flow helps anxiety and stress naturally melt away.
Creativity: Where to Start?
Another wonderful thing about being creative is that it is all you. Start with something you love, and dive in. Art, crafting, writing, music, and landscaping are just a few ways to be creative.
I have always loved the idea of painting. I used to envision myself as a painter, in my own arts-y studio wearing a worn-out and very comfortable blue shirt, splattered with colorful paint, my hair pulled back and somehow held in place messily by a paint brush. I’d paint beautiful things that made people, including me, smile. Unfortunately, I can’t draw or paint at all.
But wait! I recently discovered something that allows me to be the painter I always wanted to be with no stress or pressure or negative self-judgment. I discovered—and have come to really enjoy and cherish as a special time of relaxation—painting by numbers (for grown-ups).
Creativity by the numbers
BetterHelp informs us that painting (and painting by numbers is, indeed, painting) is a type of complementary mental health treatment. Painting is stress-relieving on its own. It can be used on its own or in conjunction with therapy and/or medication to treat depression, anxiety, and more.
Painting by numbers, as it turns out, is incredibly relaxing and takes away decision-making and worries about doing it “right.” Like most of us, I have enough of that during my work day and love a chance to be actively making something and experiencing flow while letting go of my executive decision-making functions.
I use—and happily recommend to everyone who sees my projects and is inspired—the amazing paint-by-numbers canvases from Winnie’s Picks. I find joy in doing these, and I can relax while creating and appreciating beauty. When I’m painting, I experience mindful flow. My thoughts are on what I’m doing and simply on the joy of letting go and being creative.
Whatever creative endeavors you love, make time for them. Creativity, like my painting by numbers, is mindfulness in action and thus naturally stress- and anxiety reducing. You can truly create your quality life of mental health, wellbeing, and contentment.
Here’s me being mindful while painting by numbers!