We all know life is stressful. But did you know that unleashing your artistic side can help? Here are six easy, inexpensive ways you can use creativity to beat stress starting today.
How Creativity Helps Beat Stress
Our Bodies Under Stress
Our brains, when we’re anxious and stressed, release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol prepares us for “fight or flight” during a threatening situation.
The prolonged stress so common in modern life, however, floods our bodies with far more cortisol than nature ever intended.
Elevated cortisol levels can lead to a number of health issues including high blood pressure, sleeplessness, irritability, headaches, depression, and intestinal problems.
Creativity Reduces Cortisol
Scientists have discovered that artistic activity reduces the amount of cortisol in the brain. Reduced cortisol levels mean we feel less anxiety and suffer fewer of the physical issues associated with it.
Cortisol reduction is only one side of the picture, however, because creativity doesn’t just reduce stress. It actually enhances our sense of well-being
Creativity and Flow State
Getting creative allows us to enter a “state of flow.” By definition, flow is an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” (Psychology Today)
Getting into a state of flow involves a number of complex brain activities. In the simplest terms, it boils down to:
- The self-critical part of our brain gets quiet
- Brainwaves slow, freeing us from distracting thoughts
- The brain releases pleasure-inducing hormones
So, as we see, creativity does much more than just reduce stress.
Creativity calms the mind and enhances pleasurable feelings.
Art as Therapy
The health and wellness benefits of creative expression are becoming so well-documented, in fact, that Art Therapy is a growing trend these days.
The advantages of engaging in creative activities include:
- Increase in positive emotions and sense of well-being
- Decrease in depressive symptoms
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved immune system function
- Less of the cognitive decline associated with aging
No wonder art makes for great therapy!
The good news is you don’t need a prescription from a licensed practitioner to participate.
Below you’ll find six easy (and inexpensive) ways you can use creativity to beat stress starting today.
But first, let’s make one thing clear:
Everyone Can Use Creativity To Beat Stress – No Talent Required!
People often miss out on the joy and benefits of artistic expression because they believe they aren’t creative, and there are two primary reasons for this:
1. Too Much Focus on the End Result
The benefits of creativity come from the act of creating. The final “artistic product” is secondary. It does not have to be perfect, and no one ever has to see it
The point is not to paint another Mona Lisa. The point is, simply, to paint!
2. Too Little Focus on Everyday Creativity
Creativity isn’t just about arts and crafts. Anything we do to express a “personal flair,” even if we think it’s routine or mundane, showcases our creativity:
- Combining clothing pieces into a coordinated outfit
- Using a variety of ingredients to make a meal
- Decorating a living space
- Arranging plants in the flower bed
If you do any of these things (or any other things like them), then, believe it or not, you are creative!
Six Easy (And Inexpensive) Ways To Use Creativity To Beat Stress
(even if you still don’t think you’re creative)
Now that you understand the benefits of flexing your artistic muscles, here are some fun and inexpensive ways to get started.
Doodling is defined as “absentminded scribbling,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done intentionally.
Doodling is a great creative outlet because no one expects doodles to be anything but, well, doodly. There’s nothing to perfect and nothing to get wrong.
And what could be simpler? All you need is a pen (or pencil) and paper.
Use your pen to cover the paper with random shapes, squiggles, smiley faces, and whatever else suits your fancy.
If it helps you get into the flow, you can use the following themes to guide your doodle images:
- Geometric Shapes
- Food and Drink
If you find doodling fun and relaxing, you may even want to level up to zentangles.
2. Take Pictures
Taking pictures is a great creative outlet. And now that nearly everyone has a phone camera, photography is more accessible than ever.
In order to use your smartphone camera for artistic stress-busting, however, you’ll need to do more than snap a selfie or picture of your lunch.
Rest assured, you don’t need to:
- Know anything about photography
- Have a “good eye” or
- Own a fancy camera (a phone camera is perfect!)
What you do need is the desire to (ahem) focus on the fun of taking pictures. Regardless of how they turn out.
If you normally take pictures only for special events, you might be wondering…what should I photograph?
Think of it as a photographic scavenger hunt. These ideas will get you started:
- Ten unique objects that are the same color
- An object for each letter of the alphabet (apple for A)
- Ten pictures of your neighborhood
- One subject (such as a car) from five different angles
- Five different types of trees or flowers or…
Once you get into it, you’ll find that thinking of subjects to photograph is a fun creative exercise in itself.
If you need more inspiration, however, check out this blog post with 101 ideas or search online for daily photo challenges.
3. Color in a Coloring Book
In the past few years, adult coloring books have become quite the fun trend. And no wonder.
Coloring is a simple and inexpensive way to relax.
As with doodling, coloring in a coloring book is a “low-stakes” process, meaning there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
To get started, you’ll need a coloring book and colored pencils, crayons, or gel pens. You can find these items at nearly every dollar, discount, and grocery store thanks to the current popularity of coloring. They are also available online.
Pick the Best Book to Induce Calm
Before you invest in any materials, give some thought to your preferences and choose accordingly:
- Will you find it relaxing to dive into intricate images that require hours of coloring (and many sittings) to complete?
- Will you be happier with simpler pictures you can color fully in one sitting?
Coloring books designed for adults tend to be theme-based (holidays, flowers, animals, landscapes, etc.), and it’s easy to find one for almost any interest. They are often printed on high-quality paper, meaning they cost more but hold up well, especially if you color with ink. The artwork tends to be intricate, and it may take many coloring sessions to complete a picture.
Coloring books designed for kids have simpler, less-detailed designs. The paper is thinner, less suitable for coloring with pens, but cheaper to buy. The pictures are usually easy to complete in one sitting.
It doesn’t matter what kind of artwork you prefer to color. It only matters that you choose the style that will reduce your stress level rather than aggravate it.
4. Make Sidewalk Art
All it takes is an inexpensive pack of colored chalk (found anywhere school supplies are sold), and you can take your stress-busting creativity to the
Think of it as doodling on a grander scale.
You can draw a picture, write a poem, or make geometric shapes. Whatever you create, make sure you pick a spot where it’s safe and permissible for you to let your chalk fly.
Part of the fun of chalk art is its impermanence. Your colorful images will fade away with foot traffic or wash away with the next rain. Then you can start creating all over again!
Watercoloring is a popular activity for young school kids, but its shelf life extends well beyond the second grade.
All you need is an inexpensive tray of paint, a cheap paintbrush, some paper, and a cup of water.
Watercolor paints are a great medium for unstructured creativity. It’s fun to experiment, seeing how the different colors flow and change on the page.
If you don’t find abstract painting soothing, however, you can check out this helpful blog post with simple step-by-step instructions for creating more realistic designs.
6. Paint Rocks
All you need for this stress-busting activity is some primer, acrylic paint and/or paint pens, sealant, and a handful of rocks. You can use rocks you find or buy them at a craft store if you prefer.
If you plan to use rocks you’ve found, be sure to scrub them clean and let them dry for a few days before painting them.
You don’t have to apply a coat of primer before painting your rocks, but doing so will help the paint adhere better to the rock’s surface. Plus, if you use a colored primer (white or black), it will give you a uniform background for your message or artwork.
You also don’t have to apply sealant after you’re done painting, but doing so will keep the paint from rubbing off the rock.
If you do use a sealant, you can choose glossy for a shiny finish or matte for a flat finish.
Whether you create something simple
Or something sublime
Rock painting is a great creative outlet for reducing stress and inducing calm.
You can even use your painted rocks to spread some joy. Simply leave them in random public places for others to find.
There are all kinds of online rock painting-and-hiding groups you can join to find inspiration and share the fun. Kindness – and rock painting – rock!
Creativity – The Fun Way To Beat Stress And Improve Well-Being
Getting creative is a proven, effective way to reduce stress and enhance well-being. Plus it’s just plain fun!
Remember, in using creativity to beat stress, it’s the act of creating that matters most.
Lose yourself in the process.
Get into the flow of creating.
Your reward? Reduced stress and increased happiness, two pretty amazing things to create.
For more ideas on coping with stress, check out the article Managing Holiday Stress (So It Doesn’t Come Back).