Perhaps it’s just one of those days. You’re sitting at your desk, ticking items off your to-do list, which has become part of your routine. It’s as if you’re on autopilot, simply going through the motions without any room for spontaneity. Like robots, we’ve become programmed to live within the boundaries of structure and organisation, but what if we allowed ourselves to break the cycle of monotony and actually have a bit of fun to ignite our creative spark?
When was the last time you played? You may automatically think back to childhood, but why shouldn’t play be for grown-ups too? The older we become and the more responsibilities we have, the idea of doing something purely for fun —without an outcome or to improve— seems increasingly foreign. But much more than a frivolous way to pass time, play can be a great way to spark creativity.
Exploration and curiosity are innately part of the childhood experience, and an important part of developing our imagination and problem-solving skills. As we become more aware of our surroundings and environment, our self-awareness grows, in turn enhancing our cognitive and emotional capabilities - skills that remain integral throughout our lives.
On a physiological level, play lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, while increasing feel-good endorphins. When we engage in creative activities, our neural pathways expand, allowing us to see things from a different perspective, and solve problems in a way we may not have thought of before.
When you feel stuck, be it at work or in your personal life, there are some things you can do to activate your right brain (the side associated with emotion and intuition) and be more receptive to following passion and inspiration:
Colouring. Remember how fun it was as a kid? There are plenty of books for adults too!
Fusion cooking. Combine your favourite cuisines and see what happens…
Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand (if you're right-handed, use your left hand, and if you're left-handed, use your right). Challenge yourself in everyday rituals.
Create a vision board of what you would like your life to look like or for a project you're working on at work. Use coloured markers or make a collage.
Try writing without a stream of consciousness. Simply jot down anything that comes to mind and let it flow freely. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just let your thoughts pour onto the page.
So next time you find yourself feeling heavy or stuck, take a quick break. Maybe close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to ground yourself. Grab some paper and markers, and using your non-dominant hand, let the right side of your brain be in charge of what you create.
Choose the kind of play or creative activity according to how you feel. If you’re looking for comfort, perhaps a tactile pastime like knitting with soft wool will be soothing. On other days if you feel stuck in a rut, painting with watercolours may be just what you need to inspire a sense of freedom and fluidity.
Whether it’s a drawing or a sculpture, making art offers an opportunity to ask yourself questions about what the experience brought up for you. Here are some to get you started :
How do I feel looking at this artwork?
What did I learn about myself while making it?
What does the piece say about me?
Art therapy is a great way to express yourself creatively while allowing room for self-discovery via a less structured approach. There is no right or wrong way to do it, all parts of you are welcome and there is zero judgment. The focus is less on the art you produce, and more about honouring what you learn about yourself throughout the process.
At Lumina Retreats, all of our programmes create dedicated space for play and creativity, whether through wellness-led workshops, relaxation and mindfulness sessions, yoga classes or nature excursions.
Visit www.luminaretreats.com for full details on our upcoming retreats which are designed to ignite happiness and inner freedom.
Special thanks to Nguyen Huong Linh, founder of MAI:tri VN and one of Vietnam's first art therapists, for sharing her insights to inform this piece. She is currently undergoing training in Internal Family System (IFS) and Somatic Experiencing (SE). Visit www.maitrivietnam.com/eng to discover more on her work.
Enjoy awakening your artist within!