Do you feel stressed, wound up and burnout and in need of some relaxation? Have you ever tried bringing mindfulness into creative activities?
Join me in this episode as I discuss how we can combine mindfulness with creativity as a way to unwind, stop negative thought patterns and cultivate new creative ideas.
I’ll be sharing tips and suggestions for some quick and easy ways for you to practice mindful creativity regardless of equipment, skill, knowledge or ability. In this episode, there’s something for everyone to help you get started with this enriching practice.
To find out how to work with me visit www.camillafellasarnold.com/creativepower
For episode transcripts visit: https://camillafellasarnold.com/category/podcast/
Mindfulness definition from Kabat-Zinn J. Delacorte; Nova York: 1990. Full catastrophe living: A practical guide to mindfulness, meditation, and healing. [Google Scholar]
Study of benefits of mindfulness in schools from Smiling Mind AU (2018) Evidence-based guidelines for mindfulness in schools.
Andréa Watts/Unglue You’s Creative Collage Workshop https://unglueyou.co.uk/
Welcome to episode 5 of Creative Power! As this is the last episode before Christmas I wanted to talk about creativity in terms of it being a practice in mindfulness because it’s been a really tough year living through a pandemic!
I hope that you are going to be able to take some time out over the holiday season to unwind and spend time with your loved ones. And perhaps this episode will give you some ideas to explore creativity in a fun, relaxing and mindful way.
Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word but if you don’t know what it means, in a nutshell, it’s a state of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment* and often people associate mindfulness with meditation.
Studies have shown that mindfulness can support everything from emotional and behaviour regulation, improve academic performance and social skills and even reduce depression and anxiety.
As you can see, there are quite a few reasons that mindfulness is a great practice and definitely something I think we could all benefit from right now with the stress of the ongoing pandemic.
Practising mindfulness can help break repetitive thought patterns because it’s the idea that you are always bringing yourself back to the present moment rather than letting your mind wander down potentially negative thought circles. I’d like to note that mind-wandering isn’t necessarily a negative thing, it’s only detrimental when we allow ourselves to get stuck in those negative cycles.
Purposeful mind wandering and creative aimlessness is actually massively useful in the creative process because they allow us to explore ideas, make new connections in our minds and come up with exciting innovations.
I know for myself that the more time and space I allow myself to let myself mull over projects in a gently directed way, the more it creates space for the ideas to flow. In fact, I’ve actually purposefully started cutting down on phone calls, listening to audiobooks and podcasts while I walk in favour of music or even silence in order to allow that space for mind wandering and it’s definitely improved my creativity.
So you’re probably wondering how can you practice mindfulness with creativity?
And it’s a really good question.
Creativity and wellbeing are often the first things that are affected by stress so I thought this was really interesting to combine creative activities with a mindfulness practice. Because it’s not just about giving yourself time to let your mind wander although that can be beneficial as I’ve found personally.
What bringing creativity into mindfulness practise does is that it gives you something to gently focus on which allows you to disconnect from the continuous thought cycles. It puts you back into the present moment and allows some room for your unconscious to come forward – this is where the new connections, perspectives, creative thinking and original ideas come in! It can also give space for things like fears and blockages to surface, increasing your self-awareness so you can work through them.
I experienced this myself in a beautiful way earlier this year when I was on a collage workshop run by Andréa Watts from Unglue You. Collage is as you would think, the idea of going through magazines cutting out images and sticking them on a board. Now with COVID, Andréa is running the collage workshops online so there was a little bit of learning to get used to the collaging software but the effect is the same, you’re cutting out images, words etc and creating a board that tells a story by the end of it.
What made this workshop revolutionary for me and got me interested in the mindfulness aspect of it was that the whole experience was done while listening to an instrumental playlist Andréa has curated.
In my personal practice, I tend to work in silence because I’ve found listening to anything with words like the radio or music far too distracting. I end up not getting anything done because I’m far too busy having my own singalong or dance party. Equally working from home means I’ve only got the hum of my computer and the occasional bark of my dogs in the background rather than listening to the daily sounds of a studio or work environment. So I’ve gotten pretty used to working in silence.
The playlist for this collage workshop was a surprise for me because what it did is put me into a meditative state. The constant chatter of thoughts stopped and I was happily going through the images, cropping whatever stood out to me without wondering why or questioning the choice, simply reacting to the feeling. Did it feel like, ‘yes I want to save that image for my collage’? If it did, I followed that feeling.And we did the same process with this playlist for curating our collage from saved images. It was very zen. What enhanced it for me was listening with earphones too so although there was several people in the zoom room, I’d forgotten anyone else was there but me and the music and images.
My resulting collage spoke very deeply to me and highlighted some interesting things on my chosen topic. It was a very profound experience even though I’ve collaged what feels like hundreds of times over the years but this one stood out. As an aside, I’ll be linking to Andréa’s website in the show notes if you’re interested in her collaging workshop – you won’t regret it! And I’m definitely planning on training with her in the process so I can facilitate the workshop myself in future because it was incredible.
What’s most interesting though is that a couple of days later I was struggling to focus while working on a project. I tried everything – got up for a drink and something to eat, did a few stretches, hugged my dogs, looked out of the window, tried another project… nothing. Still no focus. And music wasn’t an option because I’d spend the afternoon singing along…
And then I remembered the playlist from the collage workshop! I put it on and within a few minutes I was back in flow. I got out of my way, got back into focus and into the present moment and the work that had taken me hours to complete one page at that point, suddenly went into fast forward and I had pages done within an hour.
Since then, when I’m stuck for ideas or can’t concentrate on what I want to be doing because I’m stuck in a thought loop, I’ve gone back to that playlist and also started creating playlists of my own to help develop my own creative mindfulness practice and here’s how you can do the same.
Number 1: pick your activity but keep it really simple!
Pick something simple and fun to do, get your children, family or friends involved too if you want! It could be a colouring book or drawing zentangles. If you like writing, how about journaling, automatic writing or even morning pages.
There’s vision boarding, collaging or scrapbooking – you could even use Christmas cards for collaging or scrapbooking! You might like to do paper crafts, there’s plenty of options that are simple to get started with like paper cutting and origami.
Perhaps you’d like to do baking or make salt dough ornaments – the mixing and kneading can be very meditative actions to do. If you want something for the outdoors, there’s walking meditations or forest bathing.
In fact, you could try lots of these ideas and see what different outcomes they bring because most of the suggestions I’ve listed don’t require much in the way of equipment, knowledge or skill so give them all a whirl!
Most importantly though, remember that these aren’t for public consumption, they are purely activities for you to unwind, be creative and practice mindfulness.
And don’t forget to keep them simple because the more complex, the more you’ll start to overthink what you’re doing and we don’t want that.
Number 2: sound is important.
It doesn’t have to be a playlist but being aware of the noise around you is part of the mindfulness practice. If you’re doing walking meditation for example, what can you hear? I actually learnt this as part of the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique for anxiety where you acknowledge:
5 things you can see around you.
4 things you can touch.
3 things you can hear.
2 things you can smell and
1 thing you can taste.
Alternatively, you can use music but opt for something without words, otherwise, you’ll get wrapped up in what is being said. Try instrumentals or even sound effects like falling rain, ocean sounds or simply white noise. Pick something that isn’t going to be stressful so perhaps don’t listen to storm sound effects if you don’t like thunder! The aim is to make this a really relaxing experience and get your out of your head, not stuck in fear.
Number 3: take it slow
Mindfulness is definitely not about rushing. Block out time in your day and give yourself an hour extra. Slow everything right down. Make your movements slow, deliberate, intentional. Feel your body as you make a move. Feel into the energy of the room. Mindfulness is about present moment awareness so feel into all of that every second.
And every time you feel your mind wandering off to worry about what to cook for dinner or how much time you’ve got before you need to go out, take a breath and let the thought go. Come back to the present moment and feel the pen in your hand, feel the paper beneath your fingers. Practice that 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique I mentioned earlier if that is helpful to bring you back into the present moment.
Above all, be kind to yourself. The idea of this is to help you break out of those negative thought patterns so stop the negative self-talk right now! You don’t have to colour perfectly, inside the lines. Your giraffe can be pink with blue spots, no one needs to see it! This creative mindfulness is not about the end result being perfect or beautiful. It’s about the journey, the process of creativity being mindful, being relaxing, being peaceful and enjoyable. Allow it to be. Give yourself permission to simply be in that moment.
And once you detach from the outcome, it allows for all sorts of new things to arise because you’ve made space in your mind for them. I think that was the most important learning for me. We try and force things far too much but when you just allow yourself to act without worrying about it meaning something, it creates room for more. It gives you space to breathe and think in new ways.
One last thing to remember. Mindfulness is a practice. It’s something you cultivate. Doing it once and forgetting about it make me you feel better for a little while but if you want to access some of those benefits I mentioned earlier, think about how you can build mindfulness into your life as a regular practice.
Also, it can be challenging when you start so allow it to be a practice! You don’t have to be perfect at this from the get-go. But allowing yourself to try and actually start… that’s the first step.
So I hope you find a way to give this a try over the next couple of weeks. I’d love to hear how it works for you and how you feel as a result. Do send me a message or connect with me on social media and let me know. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram – search for Camilla Fellas Arnold (or CamillaFellasA on Twitter because my surname is too long!) and I’ll pop up. Pretty sure there’s only one of me so I won’t be too hard to find. Let me know what you experience as a result because I’d love to hear about it.
And that’s it for this episode! Thanks for listening, good luck and I’ll see you in the new year!