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Minisode 09 | December 3, 2020

Using Creativity to Heal

In this minisode, we talk about how creativity can interrupt the stress cycle, give us an outlet for self-expression, help us process thoughts and feelings, and encourage healing.


Welcome to “That’s a Hard No” – the podcast about saying no (in all its forms) so you can become the authentic and empowered person that this world needs.

Quick disclosure: While Sarah is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, this podcast is in no way replacement for one-on-one therapy with a mental health professionalIf you are struggling with mental health issues, we welcome you on this journey, but also invite you to seek out professional help.

Looking for a therapist? Here’s a good place to start:

using creativity to heal
Key Takeaways

To be creative, you don’t have to be an artist. You just have to be human; creativity is a part of all of us. There’s a famous quote by Picasso about this. He said, “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Art can be a calming and motivational outlet for many people. Research shows that art can have a powerful influence on a person’s well-being and outlook; it can create a sense of purpose and optimism. Art is a wellness activity that can change a person’s frame of mind. It can have an impact on emotions and attitude.  It can also help a body filled with stress and fear become relaxed and focused.

When we create something, it moves the internal (an idea) to the external (the expression) – it’s cathartic.

Sometimes “art” has an intimidating connotation because it is commonly thought of as drawing or painting – it can also seem intimidating because our inner critic can creep in (Sarah calls her inner critic “the shitty committee”) and those negative thoughts can be very judgmental and make it very difficult to be creative. For a lot of people, making art can be nerve-wracking. Often, people think “I’m terrible at art,” “what should I do exactly?” or “what if it doesn’t look good?”

Interestingly enough, studies show that despite those fears, engaging in any sort of visual expression results in the reward pathways in the brain being activated – which means that you feel good and it’s perceived as a pleasurable experience.

What’s important to keep in mind when thinking about art is that it encompasses all methods and mediums. Yes, it includes drawing and painting, but it also includes sculpting, journaling, creative writing, songwriting, poetry, digital art and design, cooking, gardening, dancing, singing, and much more.

Art can help uncover and understand feelings in a different way. It can improve self-esteem by providing clarity and purpose, which reduces stress. It can provide sensory pleasure and generate a positive flood of emotions. In addition, art is a great way to implement and practice using a growth mindset when you view your creative expression as a journey – you learn as you go.

Art is healing because it forces you to forge a connection between your mind and body.

(Nerd Alert!) There is clinical data to support the significance behind creativity and positive brain benefits (read the report here). To sum it up, a team of researchers measured blood flow to the brain’s reward center and the medial prefrontal cortex. They had participants complete three art activities: coloring in a mandala (a geometric configuration of symbols), doodling, and drawing freely on a blank sheet of paper. The researchers found an increase in blood flow to this part of the brain when the participants were doing any of these creative activities.

This research also suggests making art may have benefits for people dealing with health conditions that activate the reward pathways in the brain, like addictive behaviors, eating disorders, mood disorders, and grief.

Right now, as a society, we are all grieving in one way or another as we are navigating month NINE of this global pandemic. Every time we have a loss, we grieve. We don’t think of it that way, as grief tends to be more associated with death, dying, mourning, or bereavement. But since the pandemic started, many of us have experienced grief relating to prom, graduation, college experiences, birth experiences, holidays, birthdays, normalcy, routines, jobs, finances, friends, family, funerals, concerts, marathons, farmers markets, craft shows, shopping, eating out, etc.

Whatever you are dealing with this time of year, as we have hit the seasonal change, the holidays, plus COVID – it can all feel hard and heavy. We encourage you to try doing something creative. We’d LOVE it if you would post a picture and tag us on social, showing whatever creative method you use (we’re @hardnopodcast). Remember you don’t have to be an artist to make art! Grab whatever is around the house and create!

Resources & Recommendations
Credits and Thanks