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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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If there’s anything the last few years has taught us, it’s that life can change at the drop of a hat. Many people had to transition to a work from home environment with little notice, meetings were suddenly virtual, and kids were learning at home instead of in a classroom setting. Now, with the Great Resignation still in full swing, employers and business leaders are having to adapt and adjust to the needs of their teams. Life is fluid, and if you don’t want to be swept up in the current, you need to be flexible and adapt a growth mindset.

The term “growth mindset” was coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, who described two main mindset categories: growth and fixed. Those with a growth mindset often see opportunities to learn, grow, and develop. They believe they can change when they need to and actively work toward making those changes. On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset generally believe they are unable to change, adapt, or evolve. They are more easily defeated by failures, and they tend to firmly resist change.

If you’re sometimes guilty of having a fixed mindset, that’s okay! It is possible to develop a growth mindset. It only takes time, tools, and the willpower to do so.

Let’s talk about 4 ways to develop your growth mindset…

1. Pay Attention to Your Thoughts

We all have an inner voice. It may be positive and encouraging, or it may be telling you things like, “You can’t,” “You’re not good enough,” or “This is just the way things are.” What is your inner voice telling you? If it tends to be more negative and defeatist, that’s a good sign you tend to have a fixed mentality. Once you’re aware of that, you can begin to talk back to your inner voice and begin to take on a more positive, growth-oriented mindset.

2. Reframe Failure

It’s easy to feel deflated by failure. No one likes to fail. However, it is possible to reframe failures as opportunities. Next time you’re faced with failure—a work project that flopped, a client that went with another company, an idea that didn’t get picked up—think about what you learned from the failure. What went wrong? How can you do things differently next time? Use these moments as chances to learn, redo, and move on.

3. Embrace Brain Plasticity

We used to think adult brains were somewhat rigid and fixed, but recent studies have shown that that’s not at all true. The brain is still malleable, even as an older adult. Even those who have experienced extreme brain trauma (such as a coma or major concussion) can retrain and essentially rewire their brains. That is the power of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and reshape.

4. Use the Word “Yet”

Next time you catch yourself doubting your abilities or lamenting failure, add the word “yet” to the end of your sentence. For example:

I don’t understand computer coding…yet.

I can’t operate this machinery…yet.

I can’t speak Spanish…yet.

I haven’t reached my sales goals…yet.

This simple word connotes opportunity and helps you get in a positive frame of mind. Instead of feeling defeated, you give yourself a glimmer of opportunity. Maybe you haven’t achieved something yet, but success could be on the horizon.

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
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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That old saying “no man is an island” still rings true today. We are all connected with others in myriad ways, and we all depend on a large network of people to do our work, enjoy life, and, frankly, to survive. The CEO of a company might receive most of the fame and recognition, but that person’s success is intrinsically linked to others—their mid-level managers, the company custodians, the IT support team, the customers who believed in the company and its offerings.

This interconnectedness extends to our personal lives as well. We rely on the farmer to harvest food, the construction crew to repair our roads, the teacher to educate our children. I often see this community and interconnectedness at play with my grandson. He and his parents rely on care from a network of people. It truly “takes a village” to raise a child.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of community.

A strong community offers support, resources, and guidance. It not only provides us with necessities, but uplifts us and motivates us to keep going.

Today, we might find a sense of community and belonging in a variety of places—through work, family, online forums, volunteering. However, while it’s possible to be more interconnected than ever before, people are now lonelier and more depressed than ever. In the U.S., loneliness has been steadily increasing since 2015 (especially among younger generations), and that trend has been noted across the globe, as well.

Why is that? Why is our highly networked world lonely?

From my observations and research, I believe this has to do with the quality of our connections, rather than the quantity. One of your Twitters posts might be liked by 5,000 people, but do you really know any of them? You might engage in a webinar with 200 other individuals, but are you really talking to each other and getting to know one another on a deeper level?

At this point, you may be wondering, “So what? Why does it matter if people are lonely?”

Aside from the mental and emotion toll loneliness can cause, it has been linked to many physical side effects such as an “increased risk of mental health issues, heart disease and even death.” The Campaign to End Loneliness reports that, “Research shows that the impact of poor social relationships on mortality is comparable to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and consuming alcohol, and exceeds the impact of physical activity and obesity. Lonely individuals are at higher risk of hypertension, poor sleep, and the onset of disability.

So, what do we do?

I challenge you to seek out meaningful, real-world connections. Get to know your neighbors, host a barbeque, volunteer in your community, join an in-person networking or hobby group. If you are already connected with a number of other people, I challenge you to strengthen those connections by making an effort to be in touch, sending the occasional greeting card, or arranging a lunch or coffee date. You can also go the extra mile by reaching out to those who you suspect to be socially isolated (elderly friends, those who have limited access to reliable transportation, new parents!) and offer your support.

Community is created through conscious connections, not just through liking someone’s social media post in passing. It’s made by asking others about themselves and reciprocating by opening up and being a little vulnerable. Let’s dare to strike up conversations and make connections! Let’s strive to consciously foster community.

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
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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