7 Reasons to Unleash Your Inner Artist

Do you have a persistent and unrelenting desire to create? No doubt! Your creative impulse is as natural and necessary as your heart beat or your breath. Your expression may differ from others but it is an essential element in living fully.

I've been singing, dancing and writing since I was a child. The exquisite bliss that I experience when I'm in the clutches of my creations, stirs my heart and feeds my soul. Time stands still, or speeds up. I lose my sense of self and am transported to a world that is saturated with the sheer joy and pleasure of being a song, a dance, a story.

Even though I've pursued these creative passions for the love of them, I've also shared them with others, whether in a dance competition, a cabaret show or my own blog. I can't count the number of times dear ones have discouraged me from pursuing these passions. Echos of ‘Get a grip.' and ‘Be realistic.' have followed me most of my life.

I'm sure my story is not much different than yours. The world at large has not historically cozied up to artists. It has not been the safest path throughout time, and though well intended, these warnings have often proven to be an impetus to creative expression. But the world is changing, my friends. With the advent of technology, and the vehicles to share our creations, being an artist is more a reality today than ever.

Joseph Beuys, German sculptor and performance artist, popularized the idea that “everyone is an artist.” He didn't necessarily mean that all people should or could be creators of traditional artworks. He meant that we should not see creativity as the special realm of artists, and that everyone should apply creative thinking in their own area of specialization, whether it be finance or the fine arts.

Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources, describes the experience:

The arts address the idea of an aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which the senses are operating at their peak, when you are present in the current moment, when you are resonating with the excitement of this thing that you are experiencing, when you are fully alive. The process connects us to our authentic self and facilitates moments of vitality and connection.

According to artist Jessica Wachter, an artist is “anyone who has the courage to come to the canvas of life and expose his or her gifts.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, recently released a new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She shares that creativity is not dropping everything to pursue a career as an opera singer or a painter (unless you want to). She invites us to explore “a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

There are many perspectives on being an artist and an infinite number of ways to engage creative expression. This isn't so much about fame or fortune, as much as it is shaping and sharing the creative forces that live within. One thing is certain: your creative impulses won't go away.

Here are 7 reasons to unleash your inner artist:

1. Enhances Creativity and Innovation. There isn't a manual to being an artist, and there isn't a manual for Life. Obstacles and challenges are inevitable. However, when you make creativity a habit, you continue to learn new, resourceful ways of solving problems in your artwork, and in life. You take risks, try new things, and strip away inhibitions in a healthy way.

2. Increases Self Awareness and Self Discovery. Creative expression can lead you to a deeper level of understanding of yourself. As you create, you plumb the depths of your being, accessing what you think and believe. The more you create, the more you discover your habits, impulses, and desires. When you take the time and energy to develop your own ideas, you come to respect your inner nature and are better able to express yourself to the world on a regular basis. Artistry reveals your authentic Essence.

3. Heals Your Physical Body. The process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients. It found that writing resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.” That’s a fancy way of saying that the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system.

4. Helps You Make Meaning Out of the Madness. At its most powerful, creative expression can be a tool for transformation. It enables connection to your inner voice and allows you to be seen and heard. It can make the unconscious conscious. The arts make sense out of our existence, as well as offering an emotional outlet for joy, pain, suffering, and unanswerable questions. It can be used to express thoughts and feelings that are too big or too difficult to put into words.

5. Creates Your Own Personal Oasis. Art can be an oasis, a place to find relaxation and calm. It can also be used to release pain and unexpressed feelings. Creative expression can be both a way to find calm and a way to release pain. As you express and integrate unacknowledged feelings, you honor and integrate your whole being.

6. Keeps You Young. Creative outlets keep you young. Experts theorize that hands on activities such as cooking, gardening, making jewelry, crocheting and sculpting may work to enhance mental clarity, because they activate additional parts of the brain. In a recent four-year study, it reported that people who took up creative activities in middle age were less likely to suffer memory loss.

7. Creates Community. When you create, you naturally connect to others doing the same and an instant sense of community is formed. Whether you're exchanging ideas, providing feedback to peers, or simply creating next to each other in silence, the sense of connection experienced as artists is undeniable and deeply rewarding.

Dr. Jeremy Nobel, Founder and President of The Foundation for Art and Healing, summarizes the major benefits of creative expression as follows:

Art allows you to do three things, and this is where the healing comes from. Art puts you in the moment, puts you in touch with yourself and allows you to bring forth something that did not exist before. And those three things taken together are incredibly powerful in terms of adjusting your understanding of yourself, your relationship to yourself, your relationship to the world and your sense about possibilities for the future.

In our uber–connected world of television, social media, and on demand everything, it can be easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.

Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. It shifts you from consuming to creating. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.

Creative expression can enrich your life in everyday ways. It can brighten your mood, spark your imagination or unleash the joy that lives in your heart. It's a tradition that is thousands of years old to heal what ails us and make sense out the adventure of Life. The world is waiting to taste your unique flavor of creative expression. Ready to share it? Say, “Yes!”

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Why You Need to Unplug From Technology (and How To Do It)

Remember the days when you could just let your phone ring and have it go to voice mail? People actually ignored technology. Yes! There was a time when we had more control over who and what we allowed in our world. Since the advent of smart phones – and the infinite ways in which we can entertain ourselves with them – that has all changed.

The proliferation of technology – in the hands of almost everyone – has shifted the way we relate to it. It has gone from being an adjunct to our lives, to being a necessity. Most people freak out if they can't find their phones. And it's not going to go away. We now have more mobile devices than people on the planet! According to Cisco's Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2014–2019 White Paper:

“By the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2019 there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices per capita.”

There is no doubt that technology is awesome! If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and have lost your way you can access a map app and find your way to your destination. If your tire has blown out on the highway you can call for emergency road service without leaving your car. If you want to get fit there are great apps that help you track your progress and provide motivation. But, there is a downside to the wonder of technology.

The portability of technology, with smart phones and tablets, and the uber-connection of social media can make it especially challenging to take time off from the world at large. This constant connectivity has become a way of life for many and it has some serious drawbacks:

  • Brain Fatigue. Digital devices deprive your brain of down time. Downtime lets the brain go over experiences, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories.  Processing too much information also leaves you fatigued. 
  • Eye Strain. Small, bright screens on smartphone's force you to squint, leading to eye strain, difficulty focusing, dry eyes and even double vision.
  • Neck Pain. Routine texters place extra pressure and stress on their neck column, giving them intermittent pains in the neck.
  • Sleep Disruption. Two hours of exposure to light-emitting devices, such as smart phones and tablets, can reduce your melatonin levels (sleep hormone). 
  • Loss of Attention Span. Excessive cell phone use can cause loss of attention span.

As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to give your digital devices a break. That change is going to have to come from you. There is now a whole industry of mobile software developers competing to provide you with games and apps to meet your every need. The choice is yours.

Do You Need a Digital Detox?

Let's check in to see if you can use a break from your digital darlings. Take a look at the list below and give yourself 20 points for every one that's a ‘Yes.' Anything below 80 and it's time for a digital detox:

  1. Check email or social media first thing in the morning.
  2. Take your mobile device everywhere you go: dinner, bed, bathroom, etc.
  3. So much on your computer, it keeps you from spending time with real people.
  4. Constantly posting to Facebook or texting/emailing when with other people.
  5. Can’t get important work done because you have to check your messages.

We all need a little escape from the day to day routine, but when checking out with technology becomes the norm it's time to reassess and realign.

How to Unplug From Technology

Are you ready to leave your computer, cell phone and tablet behind? Maybe that's a bit drastic but there are some adjustments that you can make that will give you the freedom to avail yourself of the real world:

  1. Schedule technology time. Whether it's posting to social media, reading and responding to emails or writing a blog post, don't do it willy nilly. Schedule a specific time of day for these tasks. Do not make yourself available at all times. It will suck your life force.
  2. Turn off notifications. You don't need your phone dinging every minute to advise you of emails or social media updates. (Better yet, remove social media apps from your smart phone. It's a bold move. Be brave.)
  3. Talk don't text. We're quickly losing the art of conversation. Texting opens you up to much more misinterpretation. There's no way to convey tone and inflection, which deeply shapes the meaning of your words.
  4. Don't take your phone to meals. Is there anything more annoying than having lunch with a loved one or friend, and they pick up their phone every time it dings? When did it become okay to rudely ignore your current company for a social media notification? Leave your phone in your purse or your pants. Pay attention to the person in front of you.
  5. Don't take your phone to bed. This is very tempting, especially if you sleep alone. Your phone keeps you company. It keeps you connected. It can also disrupt your sleep cycle. Two hours before bedtime shut your phone off. Gasp! (I know. This will take some getting used to.) Protect your melatonin levels and cherish your sleep cycles.
  6. Take a social media sabbatical. This isn't for everyone, but it's highly recommended. Take a 30-day break from social media. Let your friends and followers know you're taking time off. They'll get it. I've done this the past two years and always come back refreshed and renewed.

Just as your cell phone needs to be recharged after so much use, so does your brain and your body. You need to recharge and one of the best ways to do that is by turning off the computer, the phone and all other forms of technology.

Without all the distractions, your mind is free to actually think about things clearly and can recharge. This is important for busy parents, business owners, and especially for those whose work is creatively driven.

Here's a great practice that you can use on an ongoing basis: Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you, look at them eye-to-eye and encourage active listening.

The world around you is amazing. You'll never experience it if you're spliced to your device. Your inner world is awesome too. Explore your thoughts and feelings. Deliberate and dream, review and reflect. Instead of consuming information and entertainment, allow the absence of devices to free your being to create. Read a book, dive into a conversation, listen to music, talk to perfect strangers. 

Your inner essence requires unplugged time. Plug into the source of ALL life. Consult the genius within, reach into the depths of your being and share it with the world. Be the force that inspires and ignites. There is no better connection than that!

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