Positivity practices are an integral part to my creative routine. They also help me to be in tune with what my goals are and how to focus my energy on the things I care about most. Not to mention, they make me a happier and healthier person which of course leads to doing more of the things I love.
Reading Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson totally rocked my world in terms of the way I viewed positivity and our brains. He discusses the way humans brains have evolved and that we are hardwired to focus on negativity, because that is what helped us survive a very dangerous world. He describes it as “Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” His book describes the ways to train your brain not to be so worried about the predator in the bushes and remembering which berries are poisonous, that kind of vigilance doesn't serve us in the modern world. It just keeps us sad and paralyzed by anxiety.
Worry and self-doubt take away motivation which of course would lead to a decrease in creative output. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is dedicated program to healing creative blocks and is also full of therapeutic practices that get you on the right track. After reading her book, I went on to having a daily writing process for a year working on a draft for my novel. Prior to that I had spent years wanting to write but not being able to make it happen on a more consistent basis. Figuring out how to get your thoughts on track is everything, so I have listed my 10 positivity practices that enhance my creativity below:
1.Journaling a positive experience daily
I can't remember where I found this tip, but it has added a lot to my daily routine. I leave it to about a paragraph. The idea is you focus on one specific thing that happened in the last twenty-four hours and describe it in-depth. By diving deeper into thinking about the positive event you give it more importance and it also helps you to learn more about the things you value. This is a muscle that gets stronger as time goes on. I have been doing it for about six months and when I first started I had to really think about what was something positive, and now I am able to pin point events with ease. Sometimes when something good happens, I make a note in the back of my mind, oh this is what I can journal about tomorrow morning.
2.Daily Grateful List
Grateful Lists are a part of many types of wellness routines. This helps me focus on the things I so easily take for granted. I usually do a list of about 15 things at the end of my daily journal entry. I try to vary this list up because it is easy to just keep doing it without any feeling to focus on the same things. Health, safety, food, and water are the building blocks of life, remembering that reminds my inner survival mechanism that I can stay alive pretty easily, so I can focus on some other things....like writing.
I have always been an avid journaler, but before I had a tendency to get listy about recounting my day. The morning pages approach from The Artist's Way had taught me to be more stream of conscious and to focus on my feelings more than what I had got done the day before.
Julia Cameron describes morning pages as “Pages clarify our yearnings. They keep an eye on our goals. They may provoke us, coax us, comfort us, even cajole us, as well as prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. If we are drifting, the pages will point that out. They will point the way True North. Each morning, as we face the page, we meet ourselves. The pages give us a place to vent and a place to dream. They are intended for no eyes but our own.”
She advocates doing three full pages. I think there is a benefit to that but honestly, with my time constraints or should I say the current priority I give to it, I do one page, with a positive experience and a grateful list. Journaling definitely clears my head and leaves space for ideas to come to fruition.
4.Hardwiring Happiness Quotes-Recorded in my Voice
This is a mixture of both of the books I mentioned above. In The Artist's Way Julia Cameron has a weekly topic that each chapter covers with tasks of nourishing activities at the end. In Week 11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy she lists for Task 1 "Tape your own voice recording the Basic Principles." She suggest using important passages from her book, but I tweaked it to record my voice on my phone reading quotes from Hardwiring Happiness. I went through and just recorded my voice reading my favorite parts that I had underlined when I read it. It ended up being seven minutes long and the ideas seep in better when my voice is telling my head how to think. Since it is on my phone, I usually listen to this in the morning while I am walking to work.
5.Cultivating H.E.A.L. experiences
In Hardwiring Happiness Rick Hanson describes how to rewire your brain as H.E.A.L. :
Have a positive experience (pay attention). Enrich the experience (elongate it and not letting yourself rush on to something else). Absorb the experience – (visualize the feelings and cultivate them - he describes it as sprinkling over you). Link the positive experience with previous negative experiences to rewire your brain.
I don't do this as often as I would like. However, I am actively working on doing it more. When you get more mindful and aware of your thoughts it is shocking how much we do the negative version of HEAL and totally obsess over negativity and replay it in our minds and let the anger and anxiety pump through us. Again, this is what evolution programmed in us so we could survive. When I do have the awareness to make a HEAL moment happen, it is extremely enriching.
A tried and true suggestion, but it works. When I meditate daily I am so much more in tune with what I am doing with my life and my thoughts moment to moment. It increases my clarity so I can get a lot more creative work done. It also makes me more alert so I don't need to rest as much, thus giving more hours in a day to be creative.
Guided meditation works best for me and the Waking Up app by Sam Harris was transformational. His ideas are not religious and he advocates secular mindfulness. The app does have a fee, but there is a 50 day introduction daily meditation course followed by daily meditations, lectures, and short 3-5 minute meditation discussions. I try to listen to one of these each day. My favorites include Lose the Monkey - about our primate minds and Solving Problems - where he asks the question, did you really think you wouldn't have any more problems? You can choose to do a 10 or 20 minute meditation, I have been doing the 10 minute ones for the last year and I hope to graduate to the 20 minute ones eventually.
7.Limiting Exposure to Negativity
This might be a no-brainer, but I think it should be said. We take in everything we are exposed to and creative people tend to be highly sensitive as well. Negativity can come from people, movies, tv shows, the news, books, events, and all sorts of outlets that we can actively control how much time we are exposed to them.
8.Positive Moments of the Week Jar
This is an extension of taking stock of positive moments and things to be grateful each day, for this one I am reviewing my whole week and choosing the best moments. My husband and I have turned this into a ritual we share with each other each week. On Sundays, we write out our best moments and share them together and then add them to the jar. His are green and mine are pink. We still need to read last years and I think some good insights will come from that too. This follows the same idea of the need to actively get yourself to seek the positive to retrain ourselves.
9.Following Several Positive/Inspirational/Motivational Quotes Accounts on Social Media
Social Media can be intense, that is why I follow several accounts that always post serene pictures and motivational messages. As you can see, I just eat that stuff up. For example, on Facebook I love : Peace, Love and Smiles, Wild Woman Sisterhood, and Positive Outlooks to name a few. It is simple, but it works.
10.Comedian Podcasts and Comedy Specials
I am a strong believer in the artistry of comedy. Writers and comedians have a lot in common in terms of developing their craft. I think comedians are just extroverted writers. Podcasts from comedians have them share their dreams and how they didn't give up on themselves in their long journeys of finding audiences. One in particular that always makes me laugh is the Chris D'Elia's Congratulations podcast. The healing from laughing outloud nourishes me. I also love Whitney Cumming's Good for You podcast and Bobby Lee's Tigerbelly podcast. Netflix also has a huge variety of comedy specials. Like anything else what you think is funny is subjective...
I am inspired by these storytellers that bring a sense of lightness to life. They pick it a part and make you feel like you don't have to take everything so seriously. Having a sense of humor towards life is a positivity approach in itself. They are also extremely successful people that have a mindset towards life come out in their discussions that I learn a lot from.
How does this all relate to creativity?
I think the purpose of life is to figure out what makes you happy and what you want to do with it. Connecting with your inner muse and empowering its voice to speak is a journey. The Gift by Lewis Hyde discusses creativity and its place or worth in modern society in an inspirational way. Creatives can't let themselves be beaten down by the world. Self-care is such an integral aspect of cultivating our gifts. (I have a blog post about my takeaways from this book too.) Writer's block is paralysis where you are not in tune with your process and thoughts. These small practices have helped my creativity considerably and given me the strength to write more and put my work out in the world because I am not letting the artist ghosts of self-conscious questioning stop me. Positivity leads to belief in possibilities and mosty importantly the mental energy to get there.
What positivity practices do you use? Do you see a link with your creative output?
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