“Creativity is God’s will for us and should be practiced like any other spiritual practice — one day at a time.” – Julia Cameron
As a child, being creative is a natural part of everyday life. From drawing, finger painting and crafting in kindergarten to playing with toys, dressing up or just letting it all go at recess, our society gives kids full permission to be imaginative and express themselves. In many educational systems, creativity is considered an essential part of healthy childhood development.
As children grow older, parents and teachers often encourage them to spend less time crafting and more time studying traditional, intellectually-driven disciplines like math and science. By the time they’re full blown adults, grown-up responsibilities like working for a living to pay bills, keeping house or taking care of family can take precedence over embracing the fun of innate creativity — just for the sake of it. When we neglect creativity, a crucial part of us suffers, both emotionally and spiritually.
If you’re feeling creatively blocked, or just need a little boost to get your imagination juices flowing again, consider approaching life the way you did back in kindergarten. Read on for a few simple ways to lighten your emotional load and reawaken the artistic inner child within:
1. Move Your Body.
Throughout kindergarten and even grade school, we’re get to go outside and play during recess, up to three times a day if we’re lucky. But when was the last time you took recess as an adult? The next time you feel a creative block, get up and move your body so the creative juices can start to flow again. Jump on a swing and kick your heels to see how high up you can go. Find your favorite song, turn it up loud and dance like no one’s watching. Catch a breath of fresh air in nature with a brisk walk through the woods or a gentle run. Or, pull out the yoga mat and try practicing a few inversion poses – head and shoulder stands or even a classic downward dog can improve mood and bring fresh, energized blood flow to the brain.
2. Let Go of Outcomes.
Attachment is the root of all suffering. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna told Arjuna that to be a true yogi, he had to be willing to move forward in the battle royale of life without attachment to the fruits of his labor. As you battle through your creative process, let yourself embrace the essence of your journey without expecting any particular outcome. If you keep your heart and mind on the journey, the destination will eventually reveal itself.
3. Just Play.
Taking artistic projects too seriously can make being creative feel like a job, instead of an opportunity to explore and express your deepest passions, emotions and beliefs. Like back in kindergarten, you have to make being creative feel like fun if you want to enjoy practicing it regularly. Be your own playmate. Try laughing and smiling as you create. Have fun with yourself by delighting in each moment. Notice when you begin to place too much importance on things that don’t really matter. Travel light through the creative process, so you can be free to go wherever the creative flow takes you.
4. Detox Your Diet.
As children, we’re taught to eat a balanced diet with all the key food groups – and not too much fat, candy or sugar. But how healthy are we as adults? In addition to preventing degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes and hypertension, adopting a more whole foods, plant-based diet will take less of a toll on your digestive system and free up your body and mind for more artistic pursuits. Want even more clarity? Fast or try a healthy detox from meat, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine to help alkalize your body and open yourself to more peace and creativity.
In kindergarten, quiet time was sacred. Likewise, just a few minutes of meditation each day can help raise your vibration and clear your consciousness, a gateway to higher levels of imagination. If you don’t have a consistent meditation practice, start by sitting just five minutes a day with a straight spine on a comfortable seat. Just breathe. Focus on your breath and allow any thoughts that arise to come and go freely without judgment or attachment. Simply let go. In the space between each thought, some of your best creative ideas can flourish.
6. Keep it Simple.
Sometimes, overthinking a creative problem can suffocate it. Some of the most beautiful works of art are the least sophisticated, so practice allowing yourself to work with less effort, operating from your gut instinct instead of a more calculated strategy. Trust your intuition. You may be surprised where it leads you.
7. Take a Power Nap.
Remember all the naps we took as kids? They’re great for creativity. According to University of California, Riverside’s Sara Mednick — author of Take a Nap! Change your Life, resting your brain anywhere from 6-30 minutes per day can reduce blood pressure while boosting creativity and long-term memory. When all else fails, close the computer, walk away from the canvas and hit the sack. Or, just get a good night’s sleep. You may wake up with a fresh perspective.
When the creative fuel runs low, take a relaxing bath with epsom salts to cleanse your aura and reset your energy field. Add a candle or essential oils like peppermint and lavender. If you don’t have time for a bath, wash your hands with soap and water, take a quick shower, or smudge yourself and your creative space with sage or palo santo to free up stuck energy and welcome the new.
9. Switch Up Your Medium.
In kindergarten, one of the best parts of the day was story time. As an adult, you can read a book or listen to one on tape, catch up on your favorite podcast, or watch a movie. Taking a break from your creative process to enjoy someone else’s artistic work can help jump start your own. If you’re a writer, consider pulling out a paint brush, drawing in an adult coloring book (with your non-dominant hand for an extra creative push), or dabbling in a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try, like knitting or playing piano. If you’re a painter, journal. Giving yourself permission to explore other forms of expression will inspire your imagination and take the pressure off of having to deliver a brilliant work of art.
10. Embrace the Messiness.
Life isn’t always neat. In fact, the creative process can often be messy, just like finger painting was in kindergarten. Give it time. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty during the creative process. Embrace a beginner’s mind. To get started, let your ideas be messy, unorganized and abstract at first. Let the spirit of the work carry you. Eventually, it will take shape into something more tangible that motivates you to take a next step, and then the next. Luckily, you can always wash your hands afterward.
Being creative is a gift, but it requires patience, compassion and trust. Whenever you feel pulled out of your creative flow, remember you’re always just one step away from getting your groove back. The next time you feel stuck, grab a pen and paper and ask yourself: “If I were in kindergarten, what would I do next?” Consider the answer a first step toward a happier and more creative you.