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Alcohol and Mental Health

The Importance of Creativity (and How To Be More Creative)

December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 13, 2023
22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
December 13, 2023
22 min read

According to psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, “Creativity is not a talent or ability. It is the fruit of a person’s decision to matter.” If you thought creativity is confined to the realm of artists, writers, musicians, potters, fashion designers, or any other officially “creative” occupations — there’s great news: the magic of creativity is within reach for all of us!

In fact, creativity isn't just about painting masterpieces or crafting the next bestselling novel. It's a vital life skill that drives innovation and enriches our daily experiences. Let’s explore the neuroscience behind creativity and learn how we can tap into it to enrich our lives and overcome obstacles we might face on our alcohol-free or cutback journey and beyond!

The Creative Brain

Before we dive into how to become more creative, let's explore the inner workings of our noggin. The brain is a fascinating organ, and when it comes to creativity, it's all about making new connections and enhancing existing ones.

Brain Benefits

It works the other way, too — creativity is born in the brain, but it also enhances it! 

  • Better brain function. Studies have shown that engaging in creative activities boost brain function by enhancing neural connectivity and fostering the growth of new neurons
  • Problem-solving prowess. Creative folks are great problem solvers! By thinking outside the box, we can come up with unique solutions to everyday challenges.
  • Emotional well-being. Diving into a creative endeavor acts as a mental escape. It has been scientifically shown to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and uplift our mood. Who knew that sketching or doodling could be so therapeutic?
  • Anti-aging benefits. Who needs a fountain of youth when you've got creativity? Engaging in creative activities keeps the brain active and sharp, challenging it to form new neural pathways. This cognitive exercise is a workout for the brain, helping it stay agile. When the mind is constantly learning and exploring, it doesn't just age slower — it thrives!
  • Overcoming PTSD. Creativity can offer hope for those battling PTSD. Through art therapy or journaling, people find a safe space to process traumatic experiences, externalize feelings, and reclaim their narrative. These creative acts can be both cathartic and empowering, fostering healing and self-understanding.
  • Immune system boost. Believe it or not, flexing your creative muscles might just give your immune system a little pep! Immersing oneself in creative tasks reduces stress — a notorious immune suppressor. By lowering cortisol levels and promoting relaxation, creative activities pave the way for a healthier, more resilient body.
  • Social bonding. Gathering around a canvas, collaborating on a song, or brainstorming a story can become delightful social endeavors. Creativity fosters connection, allowing individuals to share perspectives, appreciate diverse viewpoints, and build stronger, more meaningful relationships. It's not just about the final product, but the shared journey of creation.
  • Addiction recovery (more on this later). Navigating the road to addiction recovery requires tools that anchor the mind and nourish the soul. Enter creativity! Activities such as painting, writing, or music provide therapeutic outlets, enabling individuals to channel emotions, reduce anxiety, and find purpose. Plus, the sense of accomplishment from creating something can be a powerful motivator on the path to recovery.

Types of Creative Activities

1. Writing: Putting Life on Paper

Words have power. From the thrill of penning a diary entry to the challenge of crafting compelling narratives, writing is your playground. Want to clarify your thoughts? Write. Eager to share your latest epiphany? Write. Whether you're detailing the intricacies of a complex topic or just dishing about your day — write. Every word you jot down is a step towards better communication, clearer thinking, and personal growth. 

How to get started? Don’t overthink it. Take this advice from Ernest Hemingway, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” 

Here are some additional tips:

  1. Try the “Morning Pages” practice to start your day with a creative burst.
  2. Write flash fiction or short poems during breaks.
  3. Send handwritten letters or notes to friends.
  4. Dedicate a few minutes every evening to jot down your thoughts, feelings, or daily

2. Drawing, Painting, and Coloring: The Palette of Life

Grab your brushes, pencils, or markers and embark on a visual voyage! From sketching fleeting moments to splashing colors that reflect your mood, these activities are therapeutic. Every stroke can be a reflection of your inner world, offering endless realms to explore.

Some tips to start:

  1. Carry a sketchbook and draw whenever inspiration strikes.
  2. Dedicate a small corner of your home as a painting zone.
  3. Engage in adult coloring books for relaxation during downtime.
  4. Doodle during coffee breaks or while waiting.

3. Photography: Capture the Moment

Life is a cascade of moments waiting to be captured — a friend’s surprise birthday party, a turkey wandering through city streets, a funny street sign, a sprinkling of sails along the river during a regatta, or a cat curled up in a basket of fresh laundry — whatever it is, find the creative spark and take it with you for keeps. It's not just about the click but seeing the world through a unique lens, finding beauty in the mundane.

Some ways to get started:

  1. Take a daily photo of something beautiful or interesting.
  2. Experiment with different angles or light settings with your smartphone.
  3. Document your day through a photo story.
  4. Take regular walks, focusing on capturing unique aspects of your surroundings.

4. Music: Sounds of Our Lives

Strum, beat, or hum your way into the rhythmic realm of music. Whether you're indulging in soulful melodies, experimenting with instruments, or creating foot-tapping beats, music is a universal language that resonates deeply, bringing joy and solace.

How to bring more music into your life:

  1. Listen to a new genre or artist each day.
  2. Dedicate 10 minutes to playing a musical instrument.
  3. Use apps to create digital music or beats.
  4. Create thematic playlists for different moods and activities.

5. Dance: Find the Rhythm

Unleash your energy and groove to your favorite beats! Dance is a delightful blend of movement and emotion, a way to articulate feelings without words. Whether structured choreography or spontaneous jigs, it uplifts the spirit and keeps you moving.

To find your own rhythm:

  1. Start or end your day with a 5-minute dance break.
  2. Enroll in a local dance class or follow online tutorials.
  3. Use dance as a form of exercise.

6. Crafts: The World in Your Hands

Crafting is your passport to hands-on creativity. Whether it's molding pottery, stitching fabric, or assembling bead necklaces, the joy is in crafting something tangible. It's a tactile journey, letting you shape dreams with your fingertips.

Start here:

  1. Take up a continuous craft project like knitting or embroidery.
  2. Create DIY home decor items.
  3. Dedicate a craft day once a month to experiment with new techniques.
  4. Personalize your living space with handcrafted items.
  5. Host or join crafting evenings with friends or family.

7. Programming: The Digital World

Enter the logical yet imaginative world of programming. By stringing lines of code, you create functioning software, dynamic websites, or even engaging games. It's the magic of transforming abstract ideas into digital realities, blending precision with creativity.

Try these tips:

  1. Dedicate some time each day to learn a new programming language or concept.
  2. Automate a small daily task using code.
  3. Attend programming webinars or workshops to learn new skills.
  4. Join online coding challenges or forums to enhance skills.

8. Theater: Performing Life

Step onto the stage of imagination with theater! Embody different characters, delve into compelling narratives, and express myriad emotions. It's an exhilarating world where stories come to life, offering both escape and introspection.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Attend local theater performances or watch online.
  2. Engage in role-playing with family or friends.
  3. Join or form a local drama club or group.
  4. Dedicate time to read plays or dramatic literature aloud.
  5. Stream online theater shows or dramatic readings.

9. Games: Power of Play

Roll the dice or press “start” and dive into the dynamic realm of games. Beyond mere pastimes, games sharpen strategic thinking, enhance coordination, and foster camaraderie. Whether board games with pals or digital quests, it's all about challenge, strategy, and fun!

Some ideas to try:

  1. Dedicate some time to play board games or card games with family.
  2. Play interactive video games that stimulate the mind.
  3. Engage in outdoor games or sports.
  4. Install brain-training or puzzle apps to play during spare moments.

10. Mind-Body Practices: Creating Your True Self

Mind-body practices are your ticket to holistic well-being. Seamlessly fusing meditation with movement, activities like yoga or tai chi promote mental clarity, physical strength, and inner harmony. 

Some tips to get started:

  1. Start the day with a 10-minute meditation or mindfulness session.
  2. Engage in yoga or tai chi for relaxation.
  3. Use deep breathing exercises during stressful moments.
  4. Stream guided sessions on platforms like YouTube to practice at your convenience.

Eric Maisel and Creative Recovery 

One area where creativity can work its magic is recovery from conditions such as alcohol misuse. By tapping into this invaluable resource, we can unleash a powerful force and truly change our lives!

Eric Maisel, a prominent figure in the realm of creativity and psychology, has changed how we view the relationship between mental health, creativity, and personal development. His emphasis on “making meaning” has resonated with countless individuals, particularly creatives who grapple with the challenges of maintaining mental equilibrium in their artistic pursuits.

Maisel has delved deep into the heart of creativity and the unique challenges faced by creatives. One of his central tenets revolves around the idea that creatives must actively craft meaning in their lives. This can be pivotal for those looking to reduce or quit alcohol.

  • Making meaning. According to Maisel, when we consciously decide to make meaning, we can foster a sense of purpose. If we’re trying to cut back on alcohol, we can find deep, intrinsic value in our creative endeavors, independent of external stimuli such as alcohol.
  • Living authentically. Maisel often speaks about the importance of living authentically. For anyone in recovery, authentic living might translate to confronting the reasons we turned to alcohol in the first place and seeking genuine, unfiltered experiences in our creative journey.
  • Mindset work. Overcoming an alcohol habit, especially for creatives, requires a significant shift in mindset. Maisel’s methodologies, such as morning practices or deep introspection, can equip us with tools to reshape our thinking patterns, making recovery more sustainable.

Embracing Creative Recovery

Creative recovery isn't just about abstinence or cutting back — it’s about rediscovering and redefining our relationship with our creative selves! Here are some ways we can tap into true creativity, free from the haze of alcohol:

  • Seek support. Engaging in group therapy, counseling, or support groups that specifically cater to creatives can be immensely beneficial. Try the Reframe app to get personalized advice and guidance!
  • Ritualize creativity. Establish daily or weekly rituals that prioritize sober creativity. Whether it's Morning Pages, sketching, or playing an instrument, this routine can serve as a powerful anchor.
  • Educate ourselves. Dive into resources that discuss the challenges faced by creatives. Maisel's extensive body of work, for instance, can provide guidance and inspiration. The Reframe app can be a great companion along the way!

7 Steps to Boost Your Creativity

Finally, here are some general tips to supercharge that creative spark:

  • Scheduled downtime. It sounds counterproductive, but sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing! Set aside “idle” time where you just let your mind wander. These moments of reflection often lead to the most profound creative insights.
  • New experiences. Diversify your activities. If you always read fiction, pick up a science journal. If hiking is your go-to, try a pottery class. New experiences stimulate the brain, providing fresh fodder for creativity.
  • Limit distractions. Clear the clutter! Designate a distraction-free zone for your creative pursuits. This might mean turning off notifications, getting a comfy chair, or simply choosing a quiet time of day.
  • Exercise. Physical activity isn't just good for your muscles; it's amazing for your brain, too. Whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, or dance, moving your body can jolt your brain into a more creative state.
  • Mindful meditation. Spending even a few minutes daily in meditation can improve focus and boost creativity. It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind, offering it a chance to rejuvenate.
  • Collaborative engagements. Two heads are better than one, right? Collaborate with others, share ideas, and feed off each other’s creativity. It's incredible the magic that can happen when creative minds come together.
  • Stay curious. Adopt the mindset of a child. Be inquisitive, ask questions, wonder "why" and "how." Cultivating curiosity keeps your mind sharp and open to new creative possibilities.

Creating Your Life

Throughout history, creativity has been the compass guiding us towards progress, fostering connections across cultures. By embracing and nurturing your creative pursuits, you're not merely adding a fun twist to your daily routine — you're tapping into a rich lineage of thinkers, dreamers, and creators who have laid the foundation of our shared heritage. The canvas of the future is stretched out before us, and it beckons for your unique imprint. Armed with inspiration and insight, there's no better moment than now to harness your creative potential!

Remember: creativity isn't just a trait possessed by famous artists, writers, or musicians. It's a beautiful, innate quality we all have. And when it comes to the alcohol cutback journey, creativity can work wonders by letting us tap into an inner source of power that reduces the need to look for external sources of meaning and fulfillment. So pick up that metaphorical (or real!) paintbrush, and let's paint the canvas of life with vibrant, imaginative strokes! 

Summary FAQs

1. How can creativity assist with anti-aging?

Engaging in creative activities stimulates the brain, promoting the formation of new neural pathways. This cognitive exercise helps the brain stay agile and active, potentially slowing down the aging process.

2. Can creative endeavors really help someone overcome PTSD?

Yes, activities such as art therapy or journaling offer individuals with PTSD a safe platform to process traumatic experiences. These creative avenues allow them to express feelings and reclaim control over their narratives, fostering healing.

3. Does creativity have any influence on our immune system?

Diving into creative tasks can reduce stress, which is a known immune suppressor. By decreasing cortisol levels and encouraging relaxation, creative endeavors can contribute to a more resilient immune system.

4. How does creativity boost social bonding?

Creative activities, whether it's collaborative art or group storytelling, facilitate shared experiences. Through these endeavors, individuals can connect, share perspectives, and form stronger relationships, enhancing social bonds. Join a writing circle, knitting group, or painting class to create art and friendship.

5. Can creativity be a tool in addiction recovery?

Absolutely! Creative outlets, like painting or music, provide therapeutic means for individuals in recovery to channel emotions and reduce anxiety. The accomplishment derived from creating can also act as a positive reinforcement in the recovery journey.

6. Is writing therapeutic for mental well-being?

Yes, writing can be a powerful way to process emotions, clarify thoughts, and communicate feelings. It offers a platform for self-reflection and understanding, making it beneficial for mental well-being.

7. Should I be skilled in a particular creative activity to reap its benefits?

Not at all! The benefits of creativity are derived from the process, not perfection. Whether you're a novice or an expert, simply engaging in a creative activity can offer therapeutic and cognitive advantages.

Ready To Get Creative and Change Your Relationship With Alcohol? Try Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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