Thursday, 31 March 2016

Birthday!



It is that time of the year again - I'm another year older!

It's funny - every year around my birthday, my mind starts taking me through my past. And I begin reflecting on where I have been, and where I am going.

It's been a busy and challenging year! Just when I thought I was done studying, I started again - and I am loving it! That was totally unexpected....and it is a blessing. I am thankful for it.

Then I think back to when I was applying to study again. The long, dreadful process of waiting to see if I was accepted or not. I thought that time would never finish. And yet, somehow, I got through it. And here I am today.

As I celebrate my birthday, I look back to the year behind me. And I realize how much I have grown and changed - in a positive way. I see how each challenge made me into the person I am today. I realize how my outlook on life has changed, too. I am now five years into recovery, and I am enjoying every second of it. Are there still challenges? Yes. But I am more prepared to deal with them. I have a toolbox of skills and strategies to continue helping me along the way. That, dear readers, is what defines maturity and development as we age - not the actual 'number' of our age.

Sometimes, life becomes overwhelming and I don't stop to enjoy the simple things in life. This is really something I want to do more of this year. I want to remind myself that regardless of how tough something may be, I can get through it. It will pass. Just like everything else. It is simply a matter of keeping things into perspective, of realizing that I can get through this - just like I did before. We have to remember that each experience we have shapes us into the people we will be tomorrow. We can learn something from every obstacle that we face, and we can use these experiences to make us wiser, happier individuals. But we also need to allow ourselves to reflect and learn from these situations. And to SLOW DOWN, to keep ourselves well, and to enjoy small things that truly make life a little more pleasurable. When was the last time you opened your eyes on a sunny morning and smiled? When did you last take a deep breath outside, and feel the air expand your lungs? When did you last take a warm bath and relax, letting your brain think of nothing? It is these simple things that truly make us realize that life is worth living - despite all the hardships that we may face.

This year, on my birthday, I am thankful for how far I have come. And I cannot wait to see where life takes me next.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Creativity and Health: Are they Related?




I am not your typical 'creative person'; that is, I am not good at art at all - and that is the honest truth.

When I was young, I struggled with creating pieces of art like all the other kids in my class. Until now, my drawings are not very....well, obvious. Sometimes, I wish I could draw better...

But then again, there are so many different ways we can be creative. First, though, let's start from the beginning: does creativity have anything to do with health? And if so, what does 'creative' actually entail?

This article does a pretty good job of describing how creative arts are related to positive health outcomes. (Interestingly, 'creative' here did not mean one specific thing, such as drawing). The result is that expressing our emotions or ideas through art is related to better health. Why?

I'll start with an example. Last week, I was so frustrated with the amount of work I had to do. I took a break to try to write out my thoughts into a poem...and I felt a little better. Later on that day, I took time to doodle on my phone using a new art app I got. Was it a good drawing? No, not at all. But it was fun. And I felt better after it.

What other ways can you express creativity? Some people are very talented, or enjoy, making music. Some like to sing and dance. Others like to draw, paint, cook, or sculpt. Other ways to be creative include making crafts, organizing things, redecorating, and so on. The point is that 'creativity' really does not mean only one or two activities. To be creative means to be able to think outside the box, to do something new, to create and produce something special - and to have fun doing so.

Expressing ourselves through creative arts can affect our mental health because it allows us to release tension and reduce stress. It takes us out of 'real time' and forces us to concentrate on making something special, new, beautiful, different, or expressive. It can help us express our emotions or thoughts when we cannot find the proper words to do so. It can also give us some time away from the hustle and bustle of life to simply slow down. And as we know very well, mental health affects physical health. The argument can then be made that if you take care of your mental health (and one way to do this is by taking the time to be creative!), you can enhance or protect/promote your physical health. Indeed, there are studies to show that creative arts are related to better health outcomes, including different measures of physical well-being (this is one example of a review of these findings).


So, take time to be creative! Reorganize a room, doodle a random drawing, write a funny poem, make a new recipe, sing a song, compose a sheet of music, make your own jewelry, design your own app - what it is, you'll feel better doing it! And remember not to assess your result or outcome against a standard or compare to others - you are being creative for YOUR well-being and comfort, and not to receive a grade. Have fun, be yourself, express your emotions, and engage (or even discover!) your talents! What will you do today to get some creativity into your life?