It’s a dreary time of the year for me. Living in the north, it’s cold, and we don’t get as much sunlight as we do in the summer months. The cold isn’t too bad; I have a plethora of sweaters, blankets, and cozy socks to keep me warm. The sunlight is a different story. Decreased sun exposure is associated with a drop in our body’s serotonin levels and can lead to seasonal depression.
Punxsutawney Phil said we should expect an early spring this year, but even if the winter weather doesn’t bring me down, it’s still kind of glum. The festivities of Christmas and New Year’s are over, and the holiday music and smell of baked goods have faded from my home. It’s time to get back to work and start preparing for taxes. Luckily, there are ways that I found to dispel all of that negativity.
The worst thing we can do when we are feeling depressed is sit around and brood. Nope, we should put our time to good use. Activity in itself is not progress, but if we aim for a goal, we can accomplish a lot, including lifting our spirits. When that activity involves creativity, it can improve our mood even more.
There are two ways to include creative activities in our lives. We can be the creator, and we enjoy the creations of others. If you think about it, the limits are endless when it comes to creative works. There is something for everyone, even those that think they don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies.
Me as a Creator
Writing and illustrating are just a few of the creative processes that I like to perform. I also enjoy cooking and photography. Whenever we create something, we are deploying multiple areas of the brain. It isn’t a left side versus right side process. There is a “complex adaptive system” involving the prefrontal, parietal, and limbic regions of the brain, to name a few.
Our creative process allows us to tap into our emotions and physical being and lets our minds and bodies unwind. Creativity helps us to express ourselves and is an opportunity to connect to ourselves. Once we initiate the use of certain areas of the brain, we stimulate the release of various hormones that can make us feel better.
Art therapy has been around since the 1940s. One doesn’t have to be a famous painter to tap into this process. Playing with Play-Doh® or even coloring can ease tension and help us cope with emotional stress. These techniques work better with people who enjoyed these tasks when they were young, but they can still be beneficial to many.
Creations by Others
Even if we can’t draw, sculpt, etc., we can look to those that can and purge negativity from or lives. Enjoying the artwork of others can reward our brains and even relieve stress.
According to the researchers at Emory University School of Medicine, looking at the works of famous painters like Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, for example, activates the brain’s ventral striatum or “reward system.” Using imaging technology, the researchers found that the paintings stimulated this area more than a photograph of the same subject.
Researchers from the University of Westminster performed a study on visitors to an art gallery, and they found that after viewing art for 35 minutes, the subjects said they felt less stressed and had lower concentrations of the stress hormone, cortisol.
If we can’t find the time to visit a gallery, we can always listen to some tunes. The act of listening to music has several noted benefits.
- Relieves stress and aids in emotional release
- Increases creativity and abstract thinking
- Positively influences our body’s overall energy levels and heart rhythm
We can easily regulate our mood by actively listening to music. Molly Warren, a licensed Professional Music Therapist, wrote, “Because of its rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us and reduces impulsivity.”
A recent study performed by researchers at São Paulo State University, suggests that listening to instrumental music while driving may reduce the effects of stress on your heart. So, if our daily commute is wearing us down, all we need to do is turn on some classical, alternative, or whatever music calms our emotions. Just don’t let it distract from the task at hand and cause an accident.
There is a creative connection in all of us, and it can help in healing our woes. These simple activities can get us through emotional moments, stressful times, and even the humdrum of the season. Put a positive spin on life and tap into some creative activities today.