A response to my last column got me thinking: one of our members pointed out the inexpensive beauty of endorphins for feeling better.
(Thank you to CJ member Renee' for the title.)
Ah yes, endorphins.
Research shows that increases in the brain molecules called endorphins help with pain relief.
Most recommendations for increasing that magical brain substance include exercise -- or some kind of physical activity. That can be tough when you have RA or some other form of arthritis.
So what are other ways you can get those brain chemicals in motion?
- laughing (rent a funny movie, hang out with a silly friend or a toddler, look on the lighter side)
- listening to music
- eating chocolate
- and enjoying sex
But I have also been wondering about the feeling that you get when you are involved with creative activities.
It may not be a strictly scientific premise, but it is based on my experiences with friends and clients. When we have creative pursuits, our brains and our bodies, and even our souls, feel better.
We get hung up on that big word "creative."
"I'm not creative" is what so many people have said to me. They are victims of grade school shut down where being "artistic" meant you followed some very strict rules that led to a product judged good or bad.
You can re-claim your creative side -- it is accessible to all of us. It may even be more imperative for those who live with a chronic illness.
Being creative allows something larger than our own limited lives to flow through us. It accesses potential, imagination, and hope. You become part of a flow of life that has no barriers or boundaries. It is almost the opposite of living with a limiting disease.
What are the ways to lean into your creativity?
The answers are as varied as all of you reading or hearing this! Whatever makes you feel more alive as you do it is a part of your native artistry. My first hint is -- don't box yourself in with some prefab definition of "creative."
Open your senses and your imagination.
What do you make or do that engages you? Some people I work with make what we might term traditional art. They paint, draw, work with clay, and write. Yes, even with hands that have been affected by RA they work with clay and draw! Some of them tell me that when they are absorbed in learning to do these things, they lose time, they feel almost like they are in a trance.
And they aren't tracking pain.
Other people are artists in their lives. They arrange their home, cook, blog about something they enjoy, make music mixes on CD's, create parties and activities that bless all those who participate. They are living their creative side.
Of course I've only touched on the obvious. There are photographers, parents, basketmakers, programmers, musicians, tailors, gardeners and so many others who play with the material world.
That's a key aspect: play. Arranging the stuff of life into a new form. Having fun, letting something emerge -- all of that is allowing your creativity to blossom.
Why don't you fool around with that today? Listen to what you are longing to do. Listen to your instinctive or intuitive self. Then act on it -- take a step.
It may take some time and practice, to coax that side of you out. Remind the shy artist within that it's safe. It's not about judgment or perfection, but about enjoyment.
Let me know how it goes -- and if your experience is that creating does make a difference in your quality of life.
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