Blog header title and image

Mental Notes
Musings on creativity, psychology and living better

De-Gunk Your System!

Tuesday, May 20 1:20 PM

I recently cut down on processed foods that were getting me through this past winter (mainly potato chips and croissants). During this latest health tune-up, I found myself reading up on the differences between HDL and LDL cholesterols (the former is the good-for-you type, by the way). Okay, I won't get too cellular but, suffice it to say, evil LDL cholesterols bind to cell walls lining our arteries, hardening and constricting them. In extreme cases, this plaque builds to the extent that a piece of it can break off during routine blood circulation. The rogue plaque proceeds to lodge itself where it is not wanted, causing terrible things to happen.

This led me to think about the concept of “flow”. We all know that systems run smoothly when there is flow. In fact, when flow is compromised, bodies break down, court cases get delayed, waters stagnate, and traffic comes to a halt. If we take a moment to consider what happens when flow is blocked, a whole slew of disastrous things come to mind.

Creativity, like blood flow, is something you do not want to block! Several books have been written on the concept of psychological, or creative flow. One great one is “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He has spent decades researching what happens when people are engaged in creative flow, and how we can all achieve it.

When creativity stops flowing, we don’t produce new ideas, and we become resistant to change. And when things don't change-- well, then it's just more of the same!! Our interpersonal and professional lives are enriched when we engage in creative endeavors. Furthermore, creativity fuels our Selves. By seeking out opportunities for creative flow, we become emotionally and psychologically dynamic--flexible even.

Creativity helps our well-wired brains to consider whole other ways of looking at things. This is especially useful in our relationships. When couples, partners, or friends become entrenched and overly-invested in their own wishes and ways of thinking, there is a standstill in the relationship and this is when resentments build. Relationships require us to consider a whole other person's thinking. This is a seriously challenging task that I feel is often underestimated. We have to suspend our engrained beliefs in order to be truly open to those of others. If our brain is elastic and flexible, we are better equipped to really, truly engage with and listen to others. And, of course, the less invested we are in getting our way, the more we are able to collaborate. And a collaborative spirit is what good relationships are made of.

Creativity also helps us in our careers. Whether we work for others or for ourselves, being less rigid and having more creative flow helps us navigate around (or build tunnels through) mountains of resistance. Imagination and creativity help us find innovative and better ways of doing things and to consider different outcomes. When we are creative, we are better able to unlock the answers to the challenges we face. As a reward, the headache is gone, our time at work is spent more effectively and we feel greater satisfaction on the job. Ultimately this can lead to more money and more time off!

Lastly, creativity is instrumental in consolidating a sound self-concept. Many psychodynamic theorists contend that it is through imagination that we began, as infants, to understand ourselves as different from others. It makes sense, therefore, that when alone with ourselves, indulging in creative thought and practices, we are able to feel the most ourselves. Wouldn’t you agree that, when voicing your creative mind, you feel the most grounded in yourself and the most whole? By engaging in creative activity, it is as though we are using our ability to express our uniqueness, and all the possibility of who we can become.

Remember, creativity is a process and it is a practice! There are infinite ways of indulging in creative activity and, like a muscle, you have to keep exercising your creative mind in order for it to work properly. Creativity begets motivation and contentment. It makes us feel more whole and more content with ourselves.

Feeling stuck? Blocked? Tense? Create! Perhaps consider carving out time to indulge your creative mind. You don’t have to be a “creative type” to engage in a little creative flow and start de-gunking whatever is stuck in your life. In fact, the more out of your comfort zone you go, the greater the benefits will probably be, so be brave and be bold! Take a class in something you’ve never tried, or always wanted to try. Coursehorse.com is a great resource for finding classes in your vicinity. And hey, if you really want to go deep, sign up for some creative arts therapy. All the while, keep in mind that the best breeding ground for creative and imaginative thought is unstructured time. So just look up from your phone or computer screen and take some time to let your mind wander. You’ll be surprised to see where your thoughts take you.

If you’re a mental health professional, you’ve come to the right place too: we offer art-based workshops, classes and trainings on a regular basis that can enhance your personal and professional life. Perhaps right now would be a good time to start going with the flow.