If I had known then what I know now about the goodness of creativity, had I known how the simple act of being creative helps overall brain functioning, I would have engaged in it much sooner and with great intent throughout my 10-year journey with depression.
I would have pushed myself in that direction with the same dedicated attention with which I pushed myself to exercise. If you have read about depression, you know about the goodness of vigorous exercise in activating endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in the brain that can either raise your mood or, when depleted, take it to the dump. In my experience, learned through trial and error, activating creativity improves my brain’s functioning. It not only makes me feel better, but it makes my brain more alive, vibrant and elastic. The before-and-after difference has been palpable.
I have learned that, indeed, some therapists engage creativity in treating clients with depression. How I would have welcomed such treatment when I was in the depths of depression and generalized anxiety! A friend of mine is receiving creative art therapy in a group setting to help her cope with what is called “lack of dual reality awareness,” which has been linked to an early-childhood trauma.
Art therapists understand that the process of creating releases helpful chemicals in the brain, providing healing to, or at least a reprieve from, those affected areas that are keeping you imprisoned. And art therapy doesn’t have to cost a lot—the price of a box of crayons from your local thrift store and scraps of paper from the recycle bin. If you want something fancier, buy a coloring book from a discount store and fill a page or two. Adult coloring books are all the rage, and you can find them on almost every topic, from flowers to monsters to angels or castles.
Compare how you feel before and after getting creative. Grab a notepad and make notes about the experience—really notice the effect that coloring has had on your brain and your mood. Do it all again tomorrow and the day after. Look for any changes. Remember, even a neutral mood is better than doom-thinking.
Once you have experienced for yourself the goodness of playing with colors, you are ready to engage in other creative endeavors. My own thing has always been fiber-related arts, but your creative interest might open up better to music, storytelling or cooking recipes of your own design.
I urge you to start small. Just get out your coloring tools and make some marks; use every color in the rainbow and then some. Don’t even tell anyone what you are doing. Just do it for your inner joy that is struggling for some light.