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September 14, 2020

Creative Therapy: Why Crafting Brings Me more Peace than Meditation.

 

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I’ve learned reflection and insightfulness are two of my greatest attributes.

I’m constantly striving to be the best version of myself and I’m always fighting to be emotionally and mentally healthy for my kids.

According to literature, meditation, baths, and walks are all touted as great ways to calm the mind and are well-known relaxation strategies.

While I enjoy all these activities and do them regularly, I never find that they clear my mind. In fact, I find the solace in these activities actually do quite the opposite. I think more.

During a quiet walk that should be peaceful, my mind clears enough to remember all the things I need to do, or ought to do. A warm relaxing bath gives me time to notice imperfections and wrinkles newly formed. Meditation is a battle of wills between the focusing on the “breath” and the ping-pong ball of ideas springing through my brain.

For years, I struggled to find mental peace until one day, during a moment of self-reflection, it dawned on me.

While reflecting back on the times in my life that I felt joy, passion, and happiness, I noticed these feelings the most during times I was using my brain creatively.

Ironically, I am not artistic or musical, which may be why it took me 42 years to figure this out. What I noticed is that when I am engaged in tasks that I enjoy, which require my brain to work creatively, I am at peace.

How? Arts and music are not my forté, and I have tried piano, saxophone, and I’ve struggled through many art classes. So how does this make any sense?

Reflecting back on periods in my life when I was truly engaged, passionate, and felt fulfilled, I noticed these feeling always occurred during times I was creatively problem solving. When I was a classroom teacher, I marveled in finding the best solution to help a child learn. I shone when it came to supporting kids’ unique needs because I was inventive in the strategies I employed and reflective in how they worked.

When I embraced new technologies as a classroom teacher, I loved figuring out how to use them with students to elevate learning outcomes. As a Masters and Ph.D. student, I enjoyed the writing, even though I was told I was not good at it. I loved creatively pulling my ideas together to share with someone else. And as a principal and vice principal, I enjoyed supporting families to generate creative ideas to help their child navigate success.

In each of these scenarios, I noticed that when I was creatively engaging my brain, I was focused. This focus created peace in my mind because it blocked out all the other things in life that didn’t matter at that moment. This focused peace of mind came from engagement, not from stereotypical relaxation strategies.

While solitude and stillness offer time to think, I learned busyness and engagement offer me more relaxation and peace of mind. Since I am no longer an academic student, and I have been off work for a year and a half, I had to set out to find new ways to engage my brain. So what did I do?

I started crafting! I thought I hated crafting, but what I dislike is perfection. I like creative problem-solving. I invested in a Cricut machine and have been busy learning to make vinyl lettering, iron on transfers, and trying to figure out what else the machine can do, and what else I can figure out.

I’m pretty sure my joy comes from the learning (the teacher in me), the problem-solving, and the creating. Most of all, I am enjoying the DIY aspect because it saves me money, and I can make cool gifts for others.

I also bought stamps to make cards, and I continue to sticker up everything from cards, to crafts, to journals. Last night, I made a photo scrapbook, which I haven’t done in years.

Another perk to my crafting journey is that it has been a great way to engage with my kids. My 12 and 15-year-olds are my new “colleagues” that I bounce ideas off of. We create together, celebrating one another’s creations, and marvel at our products. It is rewarding when your teenagers choose to hang out and “create” alongside you.

It is odd to me that it took me 42 years to figure out that engaging my brain creatively while problem-solving is therapeutic for me. My grandma, deceased grandpa, cousins, aunts, and uncles are extremely creative, and make and sell amazing stuff. Why wouldn’t I fall into that metaphorical “bucket?”

I love technology. I love tinkering. I love creating to help others or to give to others.

Through crafting, I have found new therapy for myself. Using my brain creatively to block out “noise” is the best therapy I have found for myself.

I am so grateful I have the time to explore talents I never knew I had.

~

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Milissa Gavel  |  Contribution: 1,435

author: Milissa Gavel

Image: Liza Rusalskaya/Instagram

Editor: Lisa Erickson