2023: The year you stay in touch with your passion!

Happy New Year!

January is International Creativity Month, a month intended to inspire you to leave your ruts and routines behind and try something new. It’s a great way to start the New Year, because if you give yourself permission to try new things right from the beginning, you’ll reap the rewards and benefits all year.

Unfortunately, many people don’t consider themselves “creative.” They think “creativity” is reserved for famous artists and musicians, or maybe technical wizards and inventors, medical researchers, or rocket scientists.

“I’m not that creative,” many of my patients would tell me. “I just go to work and come home every day. It’s a pretty boring life, actually.”

Really?

The way I see it is we are all creative. We’re born that way. If you put finger paints, or a piano keyboard, in front of toddlers, they will sit down and begin to create. They will NOT stop and say, “Oh no; I couldn’t. I’m just not very creative.” They immediately start to make a mess with color and sounds.

One might “critique” their artistic or musical “creations” and say they aren’t very “good.” But to a toddler that’s hardly the point. The point is the experience. The fun. They’re playing.

I believe playfulness is the essence of creativity. Which means that artistic pursuits are not the only way humans are creative. Creativity is an approach to problem-solving; indeed, it’s an approach to living. It’s a willingness to try something new; to break out of one’s habitual way of doing things; to experiment and explore.

  • Physicians employ creativity when they translate the list of symptoms they’re presented into a diagnosis.
  • Mechanics may have to get creative to identify where the heck that noise is coming from.
  • Teachers get creative to come up with lesson plans that excite and engage their students.
  • Parents get creative to gain a willful child’s cooperation.
  • Cooks use creativity to put foods together in new and delicious ways.
  • Commuters get creative when traffic snarls the freeway, but they still have to get to work on time.
  • Marketers get creative to hook customers on their latest product or service.
  • Legislators get creative to find compromises that enable legislation.
  • Peacemakers use creativity to bring warring parties to the negotiation table.

In other words, creativity is for everyone.

That’s a good thing, too, because creativity has many mental and physical health benefits. An article published in the February 2010 American Journal of Public Health measured how creative practices enhance health and wellbeing. The researchers found that creativity contributes to a better mood, decreased anxiety, improved cognitive function and immune health, and reduced risk of chronic illnesses.

For example, creative expression can be healing for those suffering from anxiety, depression, or trauma. Music therapy and theater, in particular, help to decrease anxiety. Other activities like painting, collage-making, or sculpting can give people a way to process traumatic events that might be too difficult to put into words.

Having a creative practice over the long-term also helps to prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The Mayo Clinic found that middle-aged and older adults who had a creative practice of any kind, including crafting, sewing, woodworking, or painting, had a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

It appears that being creative helps adults build up a “cognitive reserve,” which counterbalances neurodegeneration. The calming nature of creative expression also helps keep blood pressure low, which is essential to preventing heart disease.

Did you know researchers have also found that creative outlets in general—and music in particular—help to boost immune system health and decrease the body’s response to inflammation, which is the root cause of many illnesses. For people with existing chronic illnesses, having a creative outlet can help by reducing stress hormone and inflammation levels.

But how can you increase your creativity if you’ve spent a lifetime telling yourself you weren’t “that creative”?

A great question! One of the most important ways to invite more creativity into your life is to stay in touch with your passions. These are the activities that inspire you to jump out of bed in the morning. For me, it’s painting—and sharing the act of painting with all the new hires at Murad. It’s also, obviously, skincare—and not just superficial skincare, but inside-out skincare. Skincare that is a reflection of total wellness.

I was fortunate in that I was able to translate my passion for skincare into a professional career. And I have found that I would stay in touch with my passion for painting even if it never made me a penny.

This might surprise you, but I, too, was one of those people who didn’t consider themselves “artistic.” My wife practically had to drag me to my first painting class. “That’s just not me,” I told her. “It’s not something I do.”

But it turns out, painting was “me.” I just had never tried it. And then, after I tried and liked it, it took a post-operative period of lying face down for a month to give me the time to pursue it. I literally couldn’t do anything else.

What passion might you have that you haven’t yet discovered, or taken the time to develop?

Here’s my prescription for finding out: Start each morning with a quiet, contemplative practice: journaling, considering my Insight cards, or reflecting on the Murad Inspirations of the day (available at the Apple store). Both are free.

How do they work?

It’s simple: they work by returning your focus to you.

It’s so easy to focus on all the distractions in our world, brought to us every waking moment by our digital devices. Some of these “distractions” are of course important: our family members and our jobs. We do need to attend to them.

But I find that most people readily attend to all of the external stimuli shouting for attention and relatively rarely attend to “the still, small voice” that might ask them to consider their own wants and needs. Creativity requires this quiet time. An artist friend of mine says, “What does it take to create? Nothing. But who has nothing these days?”

After all, every painting starts with a blank canvas; every sculpture starts with an uncarved stone; every musical score starts with notes in the composer’s head. You have to quiet all the outside noise to hear whatever inspiration might be lying dormant, waiting to develop in you.

But once you develop the habit of listening to yourself, I know you’ll find that the wellspring of creative ideas in you will begin flowing. Perhaps in ways you never imagined! Another thing to remember is to not limit yourself before you give yourself a chance to try.

So, as we start a new year, and a month devoted to creativity, I invite you to reconnect with whatever passion—old or new—might live in you. Once you’ve connected, giving into it is relatively easy!

Wishing you a joyfully creative year!

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