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Creating Successful Leaders

For many of us, creating art feels like a leisure activity that we simply don’t have time to do. Who can devote 17 hours to making a vase? Or spend weeks painting and repainting a canvas. And then there’s learning a new skill (photography, calligraphy, needlework…). How many hours does that take?

While it doestake time to master an art form, that’s not necessarily the goal of creating art (especially if you’re doing it for enjoyment, rather than earning an income). The important thing is the action itself, not perfection. The simple act of making art (no matter its form) can be a wonderful and welcome escape. Even doodling in a notebook counts! You don’t have to make something to hang on the wall or display in a case (though you could!). The point is simply to DO.

The act of creating art can have remarkably positive side effects. Some of these include the following:

Stress Reduction

Art, in its many forms, has been known to lower stress. Studies have shown that creativity can increase dopamine levels—a neurotransmitter that is known to increase happiness and stave off feelings of anxiety, stress, or even depression.

I suggest picking an artform that comes naturally to you—watercolor, pencil drawing, molding clay, knitting—and engaging in that activity throughout the week, especially when you’re feeling stressed. What do you noticed when you do this activity? How does it feel to let your mind drift as you’re creating art?

Increased Optimism

When you actively make art, your spirits lift and you tend to feel more optimistic. Artwork can spark creativity and inspire hope. The same goes for looking at certain pieces of artwork. If you’re beholding a rugged mountain landscape or a serene forest path, you may begin to feel inspired or comforted. What inspires you? A blooming flower? A lake in the middle of a dense forest? Abstract colors and shapes? Photos of the galaxy? Either create it or view it.

Better Problem-Solving and Focus

Professor and art therapy researcher Girija Kaimal says that “making art should induce what the scientific community calls ‘flow’ …It’s that sense of losing yourself, losing all awareness. You’re so in the moment and fully present that you forget all sense of time and space.” When you allow yourself a moment to get creative, your concentration improves and you equip yourself for problem-solving.

Kaimal also states that art could serve an “evolutionary purpose” by helping us “navigate problems that might arise in the future.” When we choose to let our minds wander, they can go to incredible places and, perhaps, even aid us in problem solving.

Improved Self-Esteem

In addition to the many neurological benefits I’ve mentioned, art can also act as a confidence booster. How? Positive accomplishments (even small ones, such as creating a doodle drawing or sewing on a button) give us a jolt of dopamine. One study examined the effects of participating in a creative art program on a group of women with Multiple Sclerosis. The study found that participants experienced “significant increases in self-esteem” after joining the art program.

Art is tangible, and creating it allows us to feel a distinct sense of accomplishment. That, alone, can give your confidence a boost.

Even if you’ve never considered yourself artistic, you might find enjoyment, relief, and clarity through art. Pick something you enjoy (or you think you’ll enjoy), start engaging in it regularly, and get into the habit of creating art. The potential positive effects are numerous.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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