There are many ways we can take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health. But did you know that being creative can be healing? I had never thought about that until my Art Therapy Professor at UBC told us how it works. She said that the moment of creativity – when we are so focussed on what we are creating we don’t think of anything else – actually provides healing. She said it’s like a mini-vacation from our daily lives. It refreshes us and brings a sense of peace and calm that we get from a holiday. She said it is healing because at that moment all our attention is focussed on something outside of ourselves.
When I’m sewing, or painting, or doing something artistic, I often look up at the end of a project and discover that hours have flown by and I feel completely at peace. That is the healing power of being creative! It is like stepping outside the boundaries of our daily responsibilities for a time, and we can come back to the chores with a fresh perspective. We don’t have to create “art.” Creativity can be seen in many things we do: gardening, renovating, making dinner, or having friends over. It’s the incredible power of focussing all our creative energy on someone or something besides ourselves which brings peace, satisfaction, and a connection to others.
We use creativity in other parts of our lives too, in taking care of our physical, mental, or emotional needs. There are times when I am physically exhausted by some mundane task, like pruning trees, so I find a way to be creative – I envision how it will look as it grows. I use creativity in other ways to keep healthy. I play violin in an orchestra and sing in a choir, which helps keep my mind sharp. I grow and eat nutritious foods that keep my body healthy and energized. I try to drink lots of water, but never manage as much as my daughters, who drink at least 10 glasses of water a day! We all have to find our own best ways of taking care of ourselves. So when you get bogged down by chores, try being creative!
I count my blessings for emotional health. I feel so lucky to have my family nearby, and they include me in their lives. I love my daughters and grandchildren, and have good friends, so I feel loved and respected. Although I retired from teaching the next generations, I keep in touch with people using e-mail and Facebook. I gain a great deal of personal satisfaction from doing creative things for others. I love making art in many mediums, but I also love the challenge of making something new out of old materials. Our grandparents were masters of creative re-use and recycling. They saved old stuff and creatively re-used them to make new things like quilts or twig furniture. I am drawn to antique things and create new treasures often. I am glad that creativity provides healing, and contributes to a healthy life. And, I am thankful for the creative opportunities that abound in our neighbourhood, and throughout Edmonton.
Joanne McNeal is a McCauley homeowner, gardener, artist and musician who formerly taught art education at the University of Alberta.