As someone that’s battled depression and anxiety for most of my life, I’ve tried A LOT of methods for self-care and calming. Medications, exercise, deep breathing, therapy… the list goes on. And while all of these elements are helpful in their own way, creative stimulation has been one of the most beneficial tools I’ve discovered to keep my mental health in check.
Now, I know a lot of people’s first instinct will be to think, “pssht, this is useless, I’m not an artist.” I hear you! I always thought the same thing about myself! I can’t draw for shit! Art class always stressed me out! But when you reframe why you do something creative and what you define as creative, you’ll be shocked at all that you have in you.
My personal (unofficial) definition of creativity is anything that stimulates you outside of your normal day to day brain functioning. To be creative, you don’t necessarily need to create something. And when you release yourself from the idea that creative activities must result in something tangible/beautiful/perfect, you may find you really enjoy the process.
A creative activity can be as simple as taking a walk and focusing on different colors you see. Or listening to music and pretending you’re in a movie montage as an emo song plays (bonus points if you do an angsty head lean on a public transportation window and don’t bust your skull open when going over a bump). It can be baking cookies or putting stickers all over your planner in a way that makes you happy. It can be as complicated as making music or writing a story. The point is to do something that rejuvenates a different part of your brain and makes you happy.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite (and pretty easy) creative outlets:
Writing— Wow. The writer likes to write. Shocking, groundbreaking, subversive. But all joking aside, the reason I started writing was for a creative outlet. I had no idea what I was doing, but I just started putting together pretty sentences. You don’t have to dive headfirst into writing a story to enjoy writing. Ease into and describe a person you see in your head. Try writing about the person in the most fanciful, descriptive, over-the-top way you can come up with. Then, do the opposite and describe them with the fewest words possible while still getting the image across. Another favorite is to write out that conversation where you wish you had thought of that line at the time, damnit, and see how different it could have gone.
Playlists—A secret hobby I have is making my own soundtrack to movies or shows I love (I’ve been known to be extra enough to do this for a particularly poignant Tumblr gif…). There’s something so amazing about art inspiring other art, and finding a song that fits a mood or dramatic moment lights up the happy centers of my brain like no other.
Cross Stitching—I’m a slut for a good cross-stitching pattern. It was something I took up entirely on a whim, but it quickly became one of my favorite hobbies. DMC Threads has an insane amount of free patterns on their website with all skill levels in mind (this little alien is a great starting point and super cute). Don’t be intimidated, it really is easier than you would think to start. You just need a bit of fabric, some needles, thread, and a willingness to mess up and try again! Peacock & Fig has a great YouTube channel that can help you get started. Seriously though, don’t take it too seriously if it’s your first try! If it looks like a colorful blob, that’s awesome! It’s still a masterpiece because you took the time to try something new.
Reading— I’ve always thought of reading as a highly creative experience. As a reader, you’re actively suspending reality and committing to experiencing someone else’s world. You’re allowing yourself to be transported somewhere new, be someone different, and live out a life completely different from your own. How cool is that? Bonus points if the characters in the book you’re reading do something hella creative (meta win).
I would highly recommend The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams for that type of experience. While there is no denying the epicness of the bro’s as they use romance novels to understand women and defeat toxic masculinity, our heroine, Thea, is also an absolute treat. Throughout the book, Thea rediscovers her inner creativity, allowing herself time to be expressive and get back into her art. This is such a crucial message for women everywhere, particularly moms: you don’t have to give up the things that bring you joy to fit some mold you’re told to conform to.
On the historical side, I recommend taking a trip to Spindle Cove with Tessa Dare’s A Night to Surrender. The first in an absolutely killer series, this book sets the scene for a whole community of women that cast aside their “womanly duties,” and embrace the things that bring them joy—ranging from shooting practice to profanity-filled embroidery and a little bit of erotic poetry thrown in for good measure. Bram and Susanna are such an awesome couple, and I love how Bram so readily accepts Susanna for who she is, cursing embroidery and all.
Above all else, don’t be afraid to try new things. There’s no such thing as failure when channeling your inner Creative Queen.