What is it about depression and creative types? Beethoven. Van Gogh. Charles Dickens, Bob Dylan, Robin Williams, Charles Darwin, Mark Twain… All famous artists or great thinkers; all renowned for their creativity.
All diagnosed with some form of depression.
And the list doesn’t end there. Why is it so prevalent among the inventive? Is there a link between creativity and depression? If there is, how do we pull ourselves out of the depths, tap into our creative genius, and channel it into our work?
Those of us who’ve experienced depression know the feeling. The oppressive, dark demon heavy on your back, looming large, forcing you to carry it everywhere you go. Depression is a mood disorder that leads to prolonged periods of sadness, feelings of worthlessness and despair, reduced motivation and interest in previously enjoyed activities. It affects people differently and to varying degrees. Depression can be caused by imbalances in the levels of special substances called neurotransmitters in your brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. As well, stress from major life changes, difficulties at work, health troubles, and a negative outlook on life can all cause depressive symptoms.
It isn’t truly surprising that many creative people experience depression. We tend to think more and go over our thoughts over and over, trying to analyze what they mean. We also tend to focus on negative thoughts more often than not, experiencing negative emotions for extended periods of time as we replay these thoughts in our minds again and again.
The problem with doing this is that it’s easy to fall prey to depression’s tight grip and let it keep us from working, from fully expressing ourselves.
Do you feel like you’re just scratching the surface of your potential? Do you feel as if your depression is limiting you from achieving greatness?
How can you move through these roadblocks and begin tapping into your creative well to realize your true potential?
Trying to focus on positive thoughts will help you shift some of your thinking away from negative ones. You’ll spend less time dwelling on the bad things that have happened, hopefully avoiding sinking deeper into the pit of depression – the deeper you sink, the harder it is to claw yourself back out. This is no easy task; it involves a conscious mental effort to stop negative thoughts from forming or evolving, and a deliberate push to focus mainly on the good things. It can be mentally exhausting and seemingly impossible at first if you feel there is nothing positive about your life at all, but you must search for and grab hold of any spark of hope, light, positivity that you can find. It will become easier eventually, with practice. And once it does, you will slowly begin to shed the dark cloak of sadness and begin the upswing towards higher motivation and feeling better.
Exercise has also been proven to reduce depression. Strength training along with walking, running, swimming – anything that gets the heart pumping – makes us physically feel better and releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that help improve mood. A change of scenery helps as well – getting out into nature in particular. Not only does nature have a calming effect on us, especially the colors green and blue, but it makes us happier, quells our repetitive thoughts, and makes us feel more alive and connected to the earth. The bonus of going outside for creatives is that nature sparks problem-solving and creativity, giving our minds a mental recharge and allowing us to pay more attention and have a higher engagement with the world around us.
But what is extremely important for creative people suffering from depression is to carve time out of their days to pursue their creative passions. It is essential for you to make time for your creative outlet, no matter how busy you are, no matter what your other responsibilities are. Even if you only have five minutes a day, take the time to pick up a pen or a paintbrush, sit at your piano, grab your chisel or your tools, get up and dance, open your mouth and sing – anything that gives you a jolt of creativity – and unleash it, without restriction or inhibition. Express yourself through your art or your invention and let your soul speak. Give yourself permission to let your emotions pour into your work, giving it deeper meaning and infusing it with realness and depth. Your best work comes from intense emotions, so allow yourself to open the floodgates and release them; allow yourself to reach new levels of expression.
Not only will your art be greater, but so will your mood. Giving yourself an outlet for your emotions will give you relief, and the act of expressing your creativity will make you feel joy and satisfaction.
So channel all of your emotions into your art so you can begin to heal. Let them be your inspiration. Shed your limits. You will unleash your creative genius, beginning the upward climb towards happiness and finally reaching your greatest potential.