by Marci Wenn
Did you know that practicing creativity and expressing yourself creatively is as important to your health as balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and breathing fresh air? You might say to yourself, “I’m not creative, so why should I add a creativity practice to my life?” But I believe we are all creative and research backs me up on this. In fact, some doctors prescribe poetry, art classes, expressive writing, or simply looking at art or being outside in nature as an integrative healing modality. Better yet, when we engage in a creative activity like writing, drawing, collage making, and dancing, just to name a few – these activities provide a host of therapeutic benefits, ranging from lowering stress and enhancing healing, to improving memory and just plain having fun. Studies have shown when we perform art-related activities the pleasure centers in the brain actually “light up”, meaning that serotonin, better known as the “happy chemical,” is released. The idea of art as medicine dates back to antiquity, and recent studies are supporting the use of arts in medical facilities more and more. Poetry has been prescribed to people for healing and personal growth due to its powerful use of metaphor, imagery, and rhythm for centuries and is fast experiencing a renaissance and effective form of, if you will, poetic medicine.
I have been interested in and continue to study many creative avenues, two of which are expressive writing and poetry therapy. I have noticed time and again for myself and others who participate in groups that I offer when you put pen to paper writing about stressful experiences or emotionally charged issues in your life that it can be good for your health and emotional well-being.
In fact, expressive writing, which basically involves pouring our heart and mind into words without worrying about spelling, punctuation, grammar, and other writing conventions, is good medicine: In recent years, research has found that it improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis; and boosts the state of mind in those with many other health conditions including cancer and postpartum depression. I am currently studying Therapeutic Writing and in particular the method of James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology who has written many books, one of which is “Opening up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain.” Pennebaker’s process of expressive writing has been heavily researched and has shown that people who practice his method of writing have improved sleep, feel and think better, and have richer social lives, all of which can bolster immune function and improve health. I personally am interested in how the combination of yoga and other movement practices combined with expressive writing can help with the lessening of depression and anxiety as well as in enhancing positive self-care for all of us.
If you find yourself craving a little creativity in your life, please tap into this, know that being creative is basic to our being human. It is life-giving and helps us stay connected to our own innate wisdom. Writing, moving, making, and doing something is important to our health, and finding your inner flow of knowing yourself while sharpening your senses is not only healthy but exciting as well. Let me know if I can help, I’m here if you need me! Thanks for reading!!