This is the Part II of improving your health and well-being by slowing down. If you missed Part I
, I recommend reading it first to give you a bit of context on what this is all about. You can read it in here.
The Importance of Creativity
Let the spirit move you and let creativity take over. This is extremely hard for some – including myself – as we are so focused on success and making work our priority. I believe that those who are always focused on productivity and push creativity to the side are the same people who on their death bed wish that they would’ve worked less and spent more time doing things that truly matter. Harsh? Perhaps. True? Mos-def!
As Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, writes in The Gifts of Imperfection
,“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born out of our creativity”
. She also tackles the “I am not creative type”- statement by explaining that we all have creativity within us; some express it, some neglect it and others suffocate it with resentment and fear. Powerful statement.
Whatever you decide to do with your creativity, pick an activity that is active (huh?) rather than passive. Watching tv or reading doesn’t quite cut it. It has to be something that you can get fully immersed in.
If the first thing you try doesn’t tickle your fancy, try something else. One good way of finding a creative hobby is by asking yourself what did you enjoy doing as a kid before you grew up? What activity you really loved became a “waste of time” once you hit the adulthood.
As I struggled with making time for creativity I took up writing this blog. It was something that made me feel productive while being creative at the same time. Although not the best way to be creative as it is (most of the time) work related, it was a good stepping stone to re-discovering creativity. I have always enjoyed writing but I’ve been pushing it to the side as “I didn’t have time for it”.
I’ve also taken up practicing guitar which serves as my creative outlet as well.
Learn to Play. Do activities that are not considered productive.
There is a similarity between biological need for play and sleep. Luckily these days we have a better understanding of the negative effect of insufficient sleep. But we are still ignoring the benefits of play. We hold exhaustion and busyness as badges of honor, we talk about how hard we work and how much we’ve done and how little we’ve slept. In a way that makes as much sense as bragging about how drunk we were last night while driving home in six lanes of traffic. It makes no sense.
As researcher and the founder of National Institute of Play, Dr. Stuart Brown (seriously, are all the researches called “Brown”!?) explains “the opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression”. So learn to take the foot of the accelerator, stop posting on social media how hard you work and how little you sleep. Find something “purposeless” to do with some of your time. I put “purposeless” in quotes because play activities are usually something that we don’t associate with “being successful”. But when you really look into these “purposeless” activities, they usually have a huge impact on your success but not in the way that it is measured in today’s society.
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine in his mid-thirties finishes work early every Friday afternoon to play football with his young nephews and their friends. Most of us wouldn’t think of that as being productive; unless we look a bit deeper. He’s cultivating his relationship with his nephews by creating a strong bond that will likely last a lifetime. He’s taking time away from work just to hangout with them. To me, that’s productivity at it’s finest.
Out of all the solutions I’ve suggested so far this might be the hardest to do. It requires a lot of practice and can be very frustrating in the beginning. The upside is that meditation is one of the most effective ways to combat stress and busyness. And as long as you have a quiet space (or noise cancelling headphones) and eyelids you can do it anywhere.
I am using Calm App on my phone to do guided meditation.
And before you go on saying that your head is too busy and your brain is always on, that is a sign that you might benefit from mindfulness that comes with meditation. Mindfulness is a skill and will take time to cultivate.
Saying that meditation is not for you because you have a busy mind is the same as saying exercise is not for you because you can’t do a push up. Both of them will improve with practice.
Actions to take:
-Schedule time for creativity. Don’t just treat it as something you’ll do if you’ve got spare time. What did you enjoy doing when you were a kid?
-Play more. Throw a frisbee, play mini-golf, take a nap, read a book, learn an instrument, run around with kids.
-Meditate. Start by sitting still for a minute and focus on your breathing. Build up from there.