Banish Excuses and Boost Your Mood to Feel More CreativeShare
Excuses can keep us blocked, but, a few simple mood-shifters can help us overcome our angst and keep creating.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. But, I do know there are plenty of times when the writing sucks and it’s hard to do and I don’t feel like putting out the effort it takes. While I can always physically sit down in my chair and get something on the page, it doesn't mean I always want to. This is when I'm prone to whining and complaining and making plenty of excuses as to why I don’t want to write.
It’s the same with any form of creative expression. We can always do it – like breathing or seeing or feeling, creative expression is a part of who we are. But there are times that it feels hard or scary or terrible; times when our excuses to avoid the work are more creative than the work itself.
My favorite excuse? Research. I’ll start writing right after I do some more research.
But the excuses themselves are often why we feel blocked. They can lead to rigid thinking (there is no way to make this work), or self-doubt (I’m awful. I can’t do it) and that makes it harder to create anything at all. So begins the cycle when we feel creatively stifled and anxious about it.
If, you’re a pro-c creator who has acquired a specific level of creative expertise and who relies, at least in part, on income derived from your work, these limiting thoughts and excuses can be downright detrimental to business.
So how do you push through the tough times and keep creating even when you’d rather lie on the couch eating chips while watching cooking shows?
Getting in the Mood – to Create
Put yourself in the mood. The mood to create, I mean. Scientists say a good mood is the key to solving a problem or coming up with innovative ideas.
Researchers from the University of Western Ontario studied this creativity booster by manipulating the moods of study participants with music and video clips. After exposure to the videos and music, participants were asked to recognize a pattern. Those who were happier (the mood induced by positive media) did a better job of completing the challenge than those who were feeling sad or neutral.
“If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you do that,” says researcher Ruby Nadler in the study published in Psychological Science.
Four Quick Ways to Shift Your Mood
1. Music or other feel-good media can be a quick way to improve your mood. Reading a comic strip or love letter can do the trick. Or plug into You-Tube and find a funny or inspiring video. Anything that makes you laugh will also shift you physiology to a better-feeling place.
If you can’t find a way to smile, fake it. Plant a grin on your face until it takes hold and feels more natural. Scientists call this “facial feedback hypothesis” and say even a fake smile can help us manage distress better.
2. Visualize good feelings and creative expression. Start by sitting still and quiet. Take some deep breaths and imagine a stress-free day where things go your way. You feel energized and engaged and good about the work you’ve done and the time you’ve spent. You are full of ideas and excited to develop them. Feel the emotions around that as if you were actually experiencing those things. Then, begin your day. Visualization can ease stress, help build confidence, diminish pain, and contribute to calmer feelings. This not only makes you feel better in the moment, but it also helps lay a foundation of positive energy for the day ahead.
3. Savor and appreciate the good things in life. Noticing the little goodnesses in life and identifying and absorbing the positive feelings they invoke is another way to inspire positive emotions in just a few minutes.
Savoring can also prompt a gratitude practice where we pause long enough to give thanks for a few of the bright spots in our lives. Both practices are shown in research by Fred Bryant, Robert Emmons, and others to promote good feelings and greater well-being.
4. Finally, the most powerful way to boost your mood and feel more creative and alive is to act compassionately and kindly. Mow your neighbor’s lawn. Cook a casserole for a friend in need. Do something for your spouse to make his life a little easier. Donate money to your favorite cause or simply look someone who served you in the eye and say “thank you.”
When we connect through compassion we experience what researchers call a “helper’s high.” We feel a rush of emotion that leaves us feeling happy, more connected, and calm. Often we can experience those feelings again, even when the good deed is long done, just by reflecting on the memory.
Use these mood-boosters next time you’re looking for that unique solution to a project, searching for the next Big Idea, or even a parenting strategy that will help you skate through the next tantrum. By first sculpting a better mood, you’re more likely to tap into your innate creativity and see possibilities where once you saw blocks, limitations and bad excuses.
Portions of this post first appeared at Imperfect Spirituality.