The New Year is a time for new projects, right? What if the key for the next year lies in developing your creativity?

Most people think they’re either creative or they’re not. We have an image in our heads of happy, creative people wearing tie-dyed clothes and covered in paint as they furiously create the images seared in their brains. On the other hand we imagine logical, business types who slave away at desk in office cubes answering phones, responding to emails, and being otherwise completely non-creative. These stereotypes are not only completely untrue, they can be dangerous. Stifling our creative impulses can lead to dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, and frustration.

Everyone has the capacity for creativity in one way or another. The trick is to tap into it the right way.

Did you know that children who learn music and participate in musical activities such as band or concerts actually perform much better in mathematics? As it turns out, music and math are connected. Music targets a specific area of the brain that stimulates the use of spatial-temporal reasoning. This is, of course, useful in mathematic thinking. Even just listening to classical music can help us with math problems. If this connection between creativity and logic is present in music and math, maybe creativity can help our brains in a myriad of other ways.

Creativity can help reduce stress

A creative outlet can be simply fun but it can also be therapeutic. Art therapy, for instance, is a branch of mental health which uses visual art forms to explore emotions and work on feelings that may be prohibiting individuals from engaging in the world around them. It is often used to process traumatic events that are hard to talk about. It can manage stress, anxiety, and improve the overall sense of wellbeing. It is most common for children but people of any age group can benefit from it.

Applying the principals of art therapy to everyday stress can help us as adults. Not only can creative pursuits help us with stress reduction, but they can also bring personal satisfaction. Some people love the tactile aspects of physical media like painting or sculpting. Others may prefer music or writing.

Here are some of ways creativity can help you reduce stress:

  • Distraction: It can take your mind off problems and give you a new perspective on how to handle certain situations
  • Meditation: Focusing all your attention on a creative project can allow your mind to wander in a way that helps you process emotions or solve problems
  • Passion: Feeling invested in an activity can make you feel more balanced overall and provide you with a sense of satisfaction that can translate into other day-to-day tasks

So what if you’re not a very creative person?

The first and most important thing to know is that there is no such thing as a person who doesn’t have a creative side to their personality. You can see children tap into it easily as they play. Over the years, we were taught to push these creative impulses aside to focus on things that were more “practical,” but we never really lost those urges. This is one of the reasons we can become so easily frustrated in our jobs or during stressful situations.

Here are ten ways to enhance your creativity any and every day:

  1. Free association: Pick a word. Any word. Point at one in a book or on your computer screen. Now, spend the next ten minutes writing anything you can think of about that word. It doesn’t have to make sense. But when you’re done, look at what you’ve written and use it to inspire other works.
  2. Laugh: Laughter yoga and laughter parties are trendy right now. But as it turns out, laughter taps into a portion of our brain that not only makes us happier but can help us be more creative. If you don’t feel comfortable attending a group laughing session then feel free to laugh by yourself.
  3. Read: As it turns out, reading helps us be more creative in our own endeavors. You might think it would lead to stealing ideas but people who read are more creative in general than non-readers. Get book recommendations from people you trust who share similar interests. Even reading books that are on a completely different subject can spur your brain to think of more ideas in a subject you’re wrestling with.
  4. Listen to music: Turning on the radio or pulling your favorite artist up on iTunes helps with more than just math. Music also stimulates the creative centers of the brain. For an extra creative boost, try some classical music or music with classical elements.
  5. Get out and get social: Conversations with trusted friends cause us to think more about topics that may be plaguing us. Invite some friends over for dinner or conversation or meet them out at a local bar or hangout spot. Meeting new people can help engage the creative centers of our brains as well.
  6. Make a collage: So you like the idea of visual arts but you can’t draw a stick figure? There are many artists who don’t have skills in drawing who make some amazing visual pieces out of found pictures. Pull out those magazines and start clipping. Put together images that you find visually appealing.
  7. Doodle with purpose: Who doodles in the margins of their notebook when on a particularly boring phone call? Don’t be afraid to confess. Doodling is good for you but it can be used for more than wasting time. Zentagle art is a therapeutic and meditative practice that uses basic doodles to tap into our creative minds.
  8. Write by hand: Many of us spend all day on a computer. Typing is taking over our methods of written communications. But writing something by hand can engage our minds in a more creative way. Many professional authors still use old fashioned journals to kickstart ideas.
  9. Get outside: Go for a walk in nature. Don’t just walk but pay attention to your surroundings. Trees, plants, animals, birds, and everything else that you see can be inspiration for some creative project. Kids are naturals at creativity and they also spend a lot of time reveling in the wonder of nature. There is an important correlation here.
  10. Daydream: Another lesson from the younger generation is to actively daydream. As adults we like to call this meditation, but it is often the same thing. Give into the temptation to stare off into the distance and think about nothing. Eventually nothing will turn into something and you will get a creative spark.

What creative projects are you going to focus on in 2015?

Image by Twentyfour Students via Flickr

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