by Dawn King    The image for this article is of hands on a 9,000 year-old cave wall in Argentina. Isn’t it wonderful, as though all those people are reaching out to us from the past. We have to wonder what inspired them.

Creative expression is part of our DNA. The greatest creative energy of all has manifested each of us, and enlivens our every breath, so how could we not be creatively expressive beings as well? Art in every form, whether story telling, shaping clay, creating a song, or decorating a cake, is part of being human.

Psychologists tell us that being creative is vital for our well being, and believe it’s a mechanism to help us cope with life and prepare for challenges. A story from the journal Frontiers in Psychology:

A student was severely depressed because her grades were very poor, and she felt hopeless. At art therapy she selected a black marker and colored her entire page black. After looking at it for a while, she commented that it looked “really dark and bleak.”

She looked around and grabbed some pink sculpting clay, then started making flowers: “You know what? I think maybe this reminds me of spring.”

“Through that session and through creating art,” says her art therapist, “the student was able to imagine possibilities and see a future beyond the present moment in which she was despairing and depressed.”

As Thomas Merton has written: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.“ Today we might call this “being in the zone,” transcending time and space. Christianne Strang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama Birmingham (and a former president of the American Art Therapy Association) says: “Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world.”

Scientific studies have shown that the brain’s reward center (the medial prefrontal cortex) has increased blood flow when study participants engage in art. Researchers conclude that art could be helpful for improving health, overcoming addictive behaviors, as well as mood and eating disorders.

So what does creative expression do for us? 1. It clears our head; 2. Helps us make sense of our emotions; 3. Relaxes and calms us; 4. Affords us a different way to communicate; 5. Helps us imagine a more hopeful futureto solve problems and face situations; 6. Activates the reward center of our brain (the medial prefrontal cortex); 7. Lowers stress and anxiety (cortisol levels); 8. Lets you focus deeply.

It takes a little effort, but is well worth letting the creativity within you express itself. Do it for your own self-enjoyment, and you will be improving the happiness consciousness on the planet.

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