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Cosmopolitan Philippines

CAN CREATIVITY MAKE YOU HAPPIER?

IF THE JOY OF PAINTING IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR BOB ROSS, IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR US.

It seems everyone’s a creative these days. It’s been a while since yuppies have taken a back seat to yuccies (that’s short for Young Urban Creative), and everyone is either working on a passion project of some sort, is a freelance artist/designer/ photographer/whathaveyou, or working nine-to-five (although to be honest, it’s probably a nine-to-two a.m.) at an agency doing art or writing copy.

This, of course, isn’t a bad thing; if anything, it’s absolutely fantastic that we’re getting in touch with our more artistic sides, and making careers in industries that only years ago were considered inferior to fields like medicine, engineering, or banking. Being an artist these days is, well, finally a legitimate career.

“There is no choice but to be creative, because that’s what life is about,” shares Dr. Randy Dellosa, psychologist and founder of the Life Change Recovery Center. He explains, “All of us are born creative, but our conditioning impedes and hampers our creative processes. When we start going to school or church, when we start having relationships, we’re placed in a box. We’re taught to be in that box, rather than taught to really explore.”

This isn’t to say, however, that there’s a Van Gogh inside each of us just waiting to be unleashed on a bare canvas. “We have our different intelligences. We have to admit that some people are really bad artists, or bad mathematicians, but despite having these innate intelligences, we can look at it as an opportunity to explore and be creative,” says Dellosa. “Let me put it this way: Even if you were in prison and there was no way out, you would be able to do something meaningful if you were creative,” says Dellosa. “And it doesn’t have to be the visual arts—because there is an art to everything. Just the fact that you are able to play with what exists is already creativity.”

We all have this idea that only those who can draw, color within the lines, sing, dance, act, or write are creative, but Dellosa insists that it’s a quality that transcends the thinking of being left- or right-brained. “Even mathematicians [are creative]. They still play around with what exists. For people to come up with scientific theories and inventions, some look to their imaginations and dreams.” Creativity, then, is being able to think out of the box.

“All of us are born creative, but our conditioning impedes and hampers our creative processes.”

ART ATTACK

The strong focus on the idea that art equals creativity, however, doesn’t spring from nowhere. Multiple studies on the link between creativity and happiness more often than not utilize painting, coloring, sketching, and the like to represent the expression of creativity, versus more logical activities like jigsaw puzzles. Art therapy follows the rationale of using the more traditional arts in non-traditional ways.

Dellosa, however, cautions against art therapy classes that focus more on technique than healing and self-expression. “There are faux art therapy classes: They’ll teach you techniques, and they’ll make you think or they think that’s already art therapy,” he explains. “Art therapy can work with technique, but it’s not usually important: it’s about cathartic expression, or it allows a person to undergo self-discovery. He or she may find hidden aspects of himself or herself in the art.” Dellosa further explains that the human mind thinks in images, which makes the process of healing through something equally visual a very powerful tool for therapists to use. “Art therapy is a means to project your inner, subconscious thoughts, which are essentially images. Our memories are movies. So if you tweak the movie, you can somehow change how you feel about it.” For example, if you feel you’re caught up imagining yourself as a spiky hedgehog, and want to be more of a slinky cat, expressing the image of a cat through whichever means you chose might help you bring out those traits by creating a change in your perception.

As for the benefits of undergoing art therapy? “It can promote self-awareness and self-expression. It can facilitate emotional healing. It can promote personal growth and life advancement. It brings out a person’s childlike spontaneity, their playfulness, so it gives your inner child an opportunity to express itself,” Dellosa says, adding, “Art therapy can help with depression, anxiety, even schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, and bipolar disorder.”

Whichever form art therapy might come in—“Anything that promotes feelings of expression and catharsis might be considered art therapy. Even if something were a hard science, if you could express yourself through it, it works,” says Dellosa—the idea is to express and discover one’s self, a more modern way of viewing therapy not just as a means to fix something broken, but to discover one’s self and, in the process, live a more fulfilling life.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

If this renaissance and new respect for art and creativity is anything to go by, the anxiety we’ve come to know and love so well as a generation should be nothing but a myth. If you’re in a creative field, shouldn’t you be happier than your peers stuck in the sterility of hospitals or the precision of banking? Burnout shouldn’t be a thing if your day involves Pantones and typefaces.

That, apparently, is a myth. A writer or an artist for a massive conglomerate, after all, is still beholden to the demands of a boss or a client. His or her creativity is still, essentially, limited. “If a person were burnt out from their creative job, it means they might be living according to someone else’s expectations, because people don’t usually get burnt out from their own creative endeavours,” says Dellosa. “They have to be creative in the way they want outside of their job. They need the mindset of ‘In this job, even if I’m a creative, I’m a limited creative. What I can’t get from this job, I need to do outside of it.’ There needs to be separation, and you can’t just rely on your profession for creative fulfilment.” He also advises forms of art beyond your core competencies. For example, a writer might begin to paint, or a dancer might want to begin a bullet journal or start to sketch. “It’s good to explore [other forms of art], just to figure out if it’s right for you or not. With technical artists, their technique might impede the self discovery or therapeutic process because they might be too hung up on the technique rather than just expressing themselves,” Dellosa explains.

“Self discovery itself could lead to changes, whereas starting with wanting a certain change might limit you.”

FOR HEART’S SAKE

Whether you’re a creative or not, art therapy could prove to be something worth looking into, and Dellosa recommends a few tweaks to your mindset before signing up for it. “The key to deconditioning and reprogramming the mind is to first be aware of suppressed emotions.”

He also recommends setting aside our fear of how good or bad the output might be. “Remember, art therapy is more about the process. If you think you’re a terrible painter, art therapy would be good for you because you would be liberated by the pressure to make something ‘beautiful’ because in the ‘ugly’ art that you do, you might discover something about yourself. And what’s ugly art to begin with? Beautiful art is conditioning of the mind. You have to get over that.”

Finally, Dellosa suggests adjusting your perception that to undergo therapy, whether art therapy or more traditional talk therapy, means something is wrong with you. “It could just be about self discovery,” he says. “Self discovery itself could lead to changes, whereas starting with wanting a certain change might limit you. The idea that you have to better yourself can be hindering. Anything that provides you with insight about yourself gives you the choice of how to act on it, if you do want to act on it. This will naturally steer you somewhere, and that’s an adventure in itself, wondering where your discovery will lead you.”

(TEXT) GABY IGNACIO. (BOB ROSS) BOBROSS.COM. (PAINTINGS) SHUTTERSTOCK.

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