In my last blog post, I introduced the concept of the Indivisible Self, and focused in on the coping self. Now I want to dive into the creative self, to encourage each and every one of you to cultivate that natural curiosity and aliveness that we all possess when we drop in and reconnect to our childlike wonder and willingness to risk and play.
First, a quick refresher on what the Indivisible Self is—it’s a wellness model widely used in counseling because it is back by research on how living in wholeness means that we are integrating body, mind, spirit through attending to these intersecting and overlapping components of the social self (family, friendship, and romantic love), the essential self (your spirituality, cultural identity, and self-care), the physical self (exercise and eating well), the coping self (what you do in your leisure time, your stress management, and your self-worth), and the creative self (your thoughts, your emotions, what you do for work/study, and your sense of humor), which is what we will now explore, in depth.
Not everyone will be a painter or professional dancer, but we all have an innate creativity that comes through in our ability to learn, laugh, think outside of the box, and express our authentic selves and natural talents. Tapping into the creative self means realizing how unique we are and recognizing the strengths and gifts we bring to the world just by being ourselves. Nurturing this aspect means attending to our thinking—being mentally active and open-minded, willing to learn and bring curiosity to our lives and interactions—and our emotions—knowing how we are feeling, and expressing those feelings appropriately. The creative self also includes our satisfaction in a job or vocation that we feel uses our skills, a feeling of mastery and competence and a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at our mistakes. There is a lot of research that supports the benefits of positive thinking, emotional regulation, and laughter—reducing depression and anxiety, while strengthening the immune system.
This list, I hope, will spark some ideas of how to connect to your creative self.
Engage in life-long learning. Take advantage of events and programming at your local public library, universities, or museums. Watch the 25 Most Popular TED talks of all time. Enroll in a free online class through Coursera, whether it is how to speak Korean, intro to philosophy, or how to do web design, there are so many fascinating topics to dive into and learn.
Understand the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Sometimes we believe that our goals cannot be reached or feel discouraged at a new challenge. Our thoughts are powerful and if we approach life with the idea that our abilities and knowledge are limited or “fixed,” then we are less likely to succeed or even risk the challenge of new opportunities. In a growth mindset, we know that with practice and effort we can learn new skills, adapt, and succeed. Catch yourself when you have thoughts like “I will fail,” or “I don’t have talent,” and turn it into: “Before people succeed, they often experience some failures along the way,” and “I may not be able to do it now, but with practice and effort, in time I can probably learn.”
Know your strengths and celebrate them. Take this free survey from the VIA Institute on character strengths. Read up on your gifts and take some time to appreciate what makes you unique. I’d love to see your results! Take a screenshot and send it to me, letting me know what top strengths most resonated or surprised you!
Pick up one of these books and open your mind! (have any other book suggestions for our readers? comment below!)
Inspiration and practical advice on getting to the work of being creative in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a classic that can get you living your life more creatively right way through its many exercises
Check in with and validate your emotions. When we are very busy and have a lot on our plate, it’s easy to rush through our days without noticing how we are feeling. Get into a habit of stopping to sense what you are feeling, scan your body and notice any tension or stress and take some deep breaths as you visualize that tension leaving your body. Ask yourself: what are some deeper needs that I can give some attention to before returning to my to-do list? You might set an alarm or bell on your phone as a reminder to pause and check in with yourself. Use these helpful handouts to identify your emotions and needs.
Laugh every day. Even when times are tough or we face serious situations, it is important to remember to laugh. Comedy can provide relief and release tension, as well as increase blood flow, boost our immunity, and improve our emotional health. Spend time around friends or family who bring out your silly side, watch one of these funny movies, find hilarious clips on youtube, or take a laughter yoga class, where you can get an endorphin high without needing any real reason to laugh and instead treat laughter as a healthy exercise.
Share in the comments some of your own go-tos for getting creative and playful when life needs some lightness.