This time of year there is many messages that remind us of how grateful we are to have what we have....no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I know as I look back on this year, I often wished that certain things turned out much different than what it did, but upon further reflection, I am grateful for everything that DID turn out good...and even the unexpected blessings of those things that did not.
The one thing I can say despite all the things that I considered going "right" or "wrong", I am grateful for my creativity. Instead of taking it for granted, I continued my creative practice, and by doing so, I found that it led to me experimenting and trying a variety of differnt mediums, some I would have not ever considered trying. But most of all, by continuing my creative practice, it served as a self-care tool for me to express myself about things I experienced difficulty expressing verbally or in writing. This was the biggest blessing for me for this year.
As you reflect on this year, what are you most grateful for in 2018? If you are having some difficulty thinking of what to be grateful for, I encourage you to find some inspiration from the written word. When I read positive affirmations or quotes, that helps prompt me to create new things or think about my situation differently.
A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ACTP who is a Cleveland area Registered Board Certified Art Therapist shared 20 creative quotes that that she offered as a "creative counteraction to fear, judgement, and shame during times of distress, suffering, and sorrow." I found these creative quotes as way of grounding me regarding my feelings of gratefulness and I thought I would share them with you.
And I will ask, as Gretchen did, what creative quotes or practices help ground you in gratefulness and generosity, especially in regard to your creative gifts?
Happy Holidays to You and Yours....best wishes for a Creative and prosperous New Year!
Tis the season of giving back!
There is nothing like the Holiday Season to feel the need to share your gratitude by helping others. Commericals on television sell us on the notion of so many who need help and social media infuses "ads" encouraging giving to a variety of causes.
As artists and creatives, there are benefits of giving our gifts and talents, whether it is during the holidays or throughout the year. But especially in November and December, many nonprofit organizations are need of help, especially for critical services that during the winter months become more urgent, as well as the end of year fundraising push that help them meet their expenses for the year.
Outside of selling your own creative offerings as part of the holiday marketing frenzy at bazaars and craft fairs, this is also a good time to focus on giving back as well. Volunteering is a great activity for creative freelancers who are in between projects for clients and may have more flexibility regarding time commitment. Why not spend a few hours of your day during the week and help out a clothing drive, homeless shelter or a senior center with your time and talents? By interacting and helping with others, you may find that your brain will come up with creative ideas to major projects that you have on the backburner or meet some people who are interested in your creative gifts for their projects.
Want to use your creative talents as a way to give back? Many nonprofits need help with everything from websites to providing gifts to their clients during this time of year. Some need holiday cards to deliver to the elderly or for children who are in the hospital and can't get home for the holidays. Other nonprofits may need to have someone lead a holiday arts and craft class to engage people to create something for their loved ones. A simple search in your area via Google, United Way, or some other nonprofit web portal can connect you to the projects that need your help the most.
Did you know that volunteering also has a few other benefits as well? Nonprofit Hub lists the following benefits of volunteering that you may want to consider:
1. Boosts self esteem.
"Volunteering helps build a strong safety net for when you’re experiencing trying times. With those strong social ties, you’re always surrounded by a community that’s willing to help you out when times get tough. When you volunteer, you become a part of someone else’s safety net, too. By helping others, you’ll build a greater sense of trust and self esteem."
2. Expands your connections.
"The relationships you can create while volunteering are endless. You connect to others through volunteering, and if you do it regularly, you can maintain those valuable social networks into the future. You can make new friends and keep the old by engaging in a common activity like volunteering. With a larger social network, you’ll have more resources at your fingertips, which leads to better physical, mental and emotional health."
3. Makes you feel good.
"If you’ve ever volunteered before, you’ve probably experienced this: volunteering makes you happy! Researchers at the London School of Economics found that people become happier by volunteering more. When you give your time to others, you attain a personal sense of accomplishment, which accounts for some of the positive effects that volunteering has on your mood. There’s a threshold to reaping the full benefits of volunteering, though. In order to soak up all the positive effects of community service, you need to set aside some time for it. Volunteers who commit at least one or two hours every week reap the fullest benefits from their service."
4. Contributes to a longer life.
"Volunteering does more than boost your mood—it also has effects on your physical well-being. Volunteers encounter greater longevity and less frequency of heart disease. Volunteers may be at a lower risk for memory loss, too. The social interaction can significantly reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. "
5. Gives purpose.
"As people get older, they experience a higher risk for isolation. Volunteering combats that statistic by adding a sense of purpose to your life. The same goes for people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses. No matter who you are, there are plenty of ways to give your life new meaning by helping others."
6. Combats stress.
"Volunteering goes beyond just being something fun to do; it decreases stress, too. Studies on the “Happiness Effect” of volunteering show that you become happier the more you volunteer. When you assist others, your body releases dopamine in the brain, which has a positive effect on how you feel. Volunteers also experience lower levels of depression."
7. Gives a good example.
"Volunteering as a family is a great way to teach important lessons to your children. Kids are always learning from the example you set for them, so make sure it’s a good one! You can show the impact of volunteering through your actions. By giving back to the community, you can lay the foundation for service in the years to come."
8. Teaches new skills
"Volunteering gives you the opportunity to explore new skills and interests that you might not get to enjoy otherwise. You can broaden your horizons while helping others at the same time. If you’re looking to change things up a little, you can also try out a new job or role without having to commit to something long-term. Volunteering gives you the inside scoop on how some organizations operate, and it can hook you up with some helpful references if you’re serious about making a job switch."
If you are searching for a volunteer opportunity, state associations of nonprofits as well as state service commissions are great places to start. Other national resources include Idealist.org and volunteer.gov. And remember, you can always develop your own volunteer outreach program with a few friends and supporters to those in need.
Sharing our creative gifts is one of the blessings of being who are...creatives.
When many of us think of "self-care" we tend to think of activities such as massage, yoga, physical activity, hanging out in nature, sleep, meditation, etc. We don't think much about doing art or some other creative activity as a form of "self-care". But I invite you to think of it in this way.
For me, my creative practice is one of my favorite self-care activities. Of course there is "work" involved, looking at composition, the images, thinking of what I want to convey, etc. But it is my favorite form of work....I get lost in it...I forget about the craziness in the world...my only focus is that art piece. I put on music that soothes my soul, scents that inspires and relaxes me whether it is essential oils or incense and I become one with my art.
A creative practice connects us to another place and a product of this connection is what ever we produce as a result. It is also a stress reliever and can be a way to deal with anxiety. An asociate of mine, who found himself caring for his elderly parents full time, would spend his time either in nature or creating art...using alcohol inks on small tiles, creating the most beautiful abstract pieces. At my last count, he was approaching somewhere between an impressive 80 and over 100 pieces of small abstract art as a result.
In a recent blog article from PsychCentral by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. on this topic included some ways that art and creativity can be utilized as a source of self-care from artist Stephanie Medford and Natalie Foster, LAMFT, ATR, an intuitive mentor and registered art therapist. I share a few from this article below:
"Collage your emotions. Self-care includes acknowledging, honoring and holding space for our emotions. When Medford is stuck on a difficult emotion, she creates a collage about it using old magazines and found papers. She looks for images, colors and shapes that express how she’s feeling. It’s a quick and messy process. Which is the point: These collages “are more about processing the feeling than making ‘art.’” "
"Play with clay. “Clay is a very kinesthetic and grounding media that helps us feel in control when things are not so orderly in the ongoings of our lives,” Foster said. Crayola makes an air-dry clay, or you can get non-drying modeling clay and store it in an air-tight container, she said."
"Draw your mood daily. Medford has a journal that contains pages with 2 x 2 inch squares. Every day she fills in one square expressing her mood that morning. “A big part of working through my anxiety is noticing how it feels in my body, and what images and colors it brings to mind,” Medford said. “Paying close attention to my experience, and drawing what I find, helps me to take some of the power away from the feelings and gives it back to me and my creativity.”
"Tell your story. Foster suggested creating an altered book. For instance, every day or once a week, you decorate the pages in any way you like. You might include important mementos or personal photos. “Over time the right story will come out—whether it’s your whole life story, or the story of your growth in the past year.”
"Write About Your Art. Writing about your art can spark important insights. Foster recommended journaling after you’ve completed a piece or project and then returning to it weeks or months later: “How have you changed since making the piece? How do you still think you need to adapt in order to reflect what you are creating in your life?”
Again, I invite you to explore how art and creativity can connect you to your emotions. What other ways has your creativity has helped to address your own self-care needs? Feel free in the comments below!