Creative Outlets to Express Yourself (and Chill) from A to Z
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Last updated on January 6th, 2024
When emotions build up, stress follows. Releasing your emotional valve relieves the burden of stress as well. Creative hobbies enable self-expression in ways that feel fun and satisfying. In fact, individuals who incorporate creative activities into everyday life report higher levels of happiness.
How Emotions Get Attached to Experiences
Every experience of your life gets assigned an emotion. That’s how your brain organizes and stores memories for later recall. Processing that emotion, or expressing it, ensures assimilation of its associated experience.
Imagine that each experience passes along an assembly line on a conveyor belt. The first stop colors the experience with emotion. At the next stop, awareness of the emotion occurs.
Another stop further down the line assigns purpose or meaning to the emotion. At the last stop, the brain tucks the complete package away in its library of experiences.
If an experience stalls somewhere along the line, one of three things likely happened:
- You ignored the emotion, so it returned with more intensity to get your attention.
- You emphasized or generalized the meaning of the emotion either too much or too little.
- You clung to the emotion longer than necessary, thus magnifying the emotion.
Suspending the process of self-expression at any point amplifies an emotion. From there, an emotion carries the potential for both positive and negative responses. Take overgeneralization of fear during a threatening dog encounter as an example. If this happens, you’ll fear and therefore avoid all dogs, not just the dog that caused the initial fear. At the other end of the spectrum, holding on to feelings of gratitude breeds generalized positivity.
Responses to the same situation may also differ, given different initial emotions. Consider the two outcomes below, both prompted by extra attention from others due to illness or injury.
The Benefits of Creative Hobbies for Adults
Directing internal emotions into an external art form helps move processing along. Creative outlets in particular clear persistent complex or uncomfortable emotions. Other times, creativity offers a reprieve from grief or chronic pain.
Though temporary, creative outlets replenish coping reserves. Developing creativity also builds and maintains a positive identity, or sense of self. Perhaps most important, creativity adds immeasurable value to our perceived quality of life.
When engaged in an expressive art, your brain waves slow to produce mental clarity and relaxation. Other benefits include:
- Decreased stress
- Improved mood in general
- Decreased depression
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced perception of pain
- Enhanced immune function
- Decreased number of physical ailments
- Improved quality of sleep
- Decreased fatigue
- Improved focus and memory
- Easier decision-making
- Improved coping after a traumatic event
- Improved coping during and after addiction recovery
- Shortened period of grief after loss
- Acceptance of transition or change
- Fewer interpersonal conflicts
- Increased self-confidence
Creative Hobby Ideas and Beginner Tutorials
Exploring a new art form fuels the desire to create. Keep in mind that creative pursuits are as unique to an individual as the emotions expressed through them. What works for you may not work for your closest companion, and what works today may not work next year.
Find the perfect invitation for your creative side to come out and play. Browse the list of hobbies below, one for every letter of the alphabet, to get you started. Plan to spend at least 15 minutes at a time on your expressive activity. To stay curious and captivated, change how you bring your ideas and feelings to life from time to time.
A Bonus Side Effect of Creative Hobbies
Don’t be surprised if you find the prized “flow state,” also called “the zone,” in your creative endeavor. It shows up as a period of intense focus, connectedness to the task, and an effortless stream of creative output. It may even alter how you perceive the passing of time!
This state of deep relaxation bears a similarity to that achieved with advanced meditation techniques – but without the months or years of practice.
I’m a music therapist, dog mom, nature enthusiast, business owner, introvert, sleep and stress management coach, and research lover. My mission is to help you remove stress as a barrier to better health, greater happiness, and more meaningful connections with the people and passions that make life exciting.