When Mind Trash Catches Fire
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When Mind Trash Catches Fire

When Your Mind Trash Catches Fire, Make

We’ve all been there…those moments when it seems like nothing else can go wrong and the only thing running through your mind is the self-chatter saying that you’re a complete failure, that you don’t matter, that nobody cares and that things will never get any better.  It’s a full-on brain bonfire and you just want to be able to escape from your own thoughts.

This is when many of us resort to unhealthy habits (cue ALL the bad vices!  And I have a lot of them!) or things that do exactly the opposite of feeding our souls, because when we’re that far into our own heads it’s hard to think rationally.  It’s even harder to think about putting a paintbrush to a canvas or composing a sonata or sewing a skirt at a time like that—those are usually the last things we would think of doing.

But here’s the truth:  making is what will pull you out of that internal inferno.

Even my own brain is saying, “Pffft, sure” right now, believe me.  It’s probably hard to accept that even the simplest act of picking up an instrument, doing a dance step, or firing up a laser engraver can readjust our minds into a different place.  But what if that were true?  What would it feel like to believe that when we stepped into our maker frame of mind, that simple action would shut out all the mean, ugly, counterproductive things we say to ourselves?

Recent research clearly shows that the planning, visualization and physical motions associated with making can and do help heal both the body and the mind.

First, when we plan or visualize, we are using the analytical and creative parts of our brains.  When those parts are active, the mind-chatter “lizard brain” part is no longer allowed to participate—it cannot fire up because the other parts have taken over with imagining, anticipating, wondering, analyzing, focusing, creating.  In short, we literally cannot talk smack about ourselves (not chemically OR physically) at the same time we are planning or visualizing a project.

Second, doing something we enjoy increases serotonin and dopamine levels in our bodies.  These are the feel-good chemicals that make us less anxious and give us a better sense of well-being.

For those of you who would like to see some kind of scientific or validated proof of these claims, here’s an in-depth article from the National Institutes of Health:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/.  This is definitely not light reading, but here’s a snapshot from the abstract:  “This review explores the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the health effects of music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.”

For others who might not be so research-minded, the article basically states that some clever folks have discovered correlations between creative processes and good feels that they intend to continue researching.  I’d love to know what else they find out!

For all of us, this can be a gentle reminder to be a little gentler with ourselves, especially when the mind trash is burning down the house.

Seriously, what would you say to someone else if they came to you in an inferno of upset?  You’d most likely say kind and compassionate and supportive things, right?  That’s probably more of what we should say to ourselves, too, because if you’re anything like me, you’re probably sometimes (okay, maybe always) guilty of giving others all the grace and giving yourself none.  This is something I really work on.  Only sometimes am I successful.

Once again, I don’t have any sage advice, and most of you probably wouldn’t invite it unsolicited, anyway.  What I can say is that I’m going to ask for help from all of you to gently remind me, yourselves, and others like us to look to our creative souls when our heads are on fire.

Having a bad day?  Pick up your knitting.

Boss treating you like crap?  Pick up your guitar.

Kids are beyond managing?  Put on your headphones and do some dance moves.

And please ask me to do the same (I just might join you!).  Let’s all remember to make, and keep making, because it’s the extinguisher that snuffs out the trash fire.

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