lifestyle

Creative Outlets for a Happier Life

As we grow into adulthood, our lives become filled with responsibilities, meeting expectations and maintaining our day-to-day routines. It is no wonder that many of us experience constant stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with our quality of life. Working in the legal field is a prime example of a profession where many individuals work insane hours to meet the billable hour requirements. Lawyers, like other professionals, take their work home with them and experience many sleepless nights.

Research shows that when we primarily focus on just the things we “have” to do, or “should” be doing, whether at work or home, we feel drained, unmotivated, stuck, and lack zest for life. In addition to the overall discontentment with life, prolonged exposure to stress can lead to many types of diseases and illnesses, such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, and fibromyalgia to name a few.

With this realization, many psychologists, researchers, and coaches have emphasized the need to balance our work with our personal life in order to feel contentment. There are many tips out there for how to feel reenergized and balance our need for fun and productivity. However, from my personal experience, as well as working with my clients, I have found that a great way to bring spark and enthusiasm back into our lives is through a creative outlet.

 

Can you think of a time in your childhood when you were writing an interesting story, drawing a pretty picture, even playing a sport or instrument? How did it feel to be engaged in such an activity? Generally, when we are engaged in a type of creative expression that we enjoy, time tends to stand still as we pour our hearts into our creation. The feeling of time standing still, or being “in the zone” is such an exhilarating feeling, not to mention completely freeing.

I grew up playing the piano and from middle school through college, I sang in various choirs. The feeling of being on stage, and singing a melody on pitch and in harmony was such an ecstatic experience. I could play the piano and sing for hours at a time, without even thinking about taking a break. Even when I rehearsed alone, a sense of joy overwhelmed me when I allowed myself to succumb and be enthralled by the melody.

After college, I figured it was time to get into the “real world,” which meant pursuing a career, building security and working a stable job. I stopped singing and most of the time I didn’t even have the energy to sing. As I found myself regularly unhappy, unmotivated and borderline depressed. I desperately sought ways to improve the quality of my life. What my heart kept yearning for was that feeling of euphoria that I felt every time I sang, even off-stage. That was when I committed to making changes in my life.

Aside from the fact that I began to pursue my real passion in life by helping people heal, I decided to hire a vocal coach once a month for singing lessons. The goal wasn’t to become a professional singer. Rather, I needed to have a creative outlet that would allow me to switch from “doing” to “being,” i.e. being a creator of music and a vessel for melody to pour through me.

 

All too often, many of us get so caught up in the need to mark things off our “to-do” lists, that we do not engage our creativity enough.    

Everyone has some type of creative expression. An article in Psychology Today mentions how creating something and changing inner states into outer productions, acts as a mood enhancer as well as a natural antidepressant. Having an artsy or playful side helps to alleviate feelings of frustration, anger, depression, and anxiety because of the natural healing advantage creative outlets have on our overall well-being. This has a lot to do with feel good neurotransmitters that our brain releases when participating in such activities.

Anything that allows you to create and innovate, especially with your hands, relieves stress, has a grounding effect, and promotes mental clarity. Best of all, creative outlets have also been proven to increase and renew brain functions! Most of us engage our critical thinking side all day long, but studies have shown that creative outlets promote the development of new neurons because different parts of the brain are being nurtured.

 

With all of this in mind, I have included some suggestions for how we can incorporate more creativity in our daily hustles while adding to our quality of life.

One suggestion is to incorporate more of the things we enjoyed doing as kids. What activity made you feel as though you couldn’t get enough? Whatever that may have been for you, try to dedicate an hour a day of doing just that. If an hour is too long, even 30 minutes can do wonders.

Also, if you have children, spend some time playing games, cooking, baking, or gardening with them. Whether you spend time together playing with toys or encouraging them to join you with chores around the house, children are naturally joyful, and their happiness is contagious. It will also bring out your inner child and make even mundane tasks feel fun. Not to mention, your children will love the extra quality time that they will have with you too.

Dedicating some time to honor your creative side is an act of self-love. The key is to express your creative side without any judgments and to allow yourself to be fully present in the activity!

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How to Balance Being a Parent and Living a Fit Lifestyle

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Once you become a parent – your time, interests and responsibilities begin to shift from taking care of yourself to caring for another life as well. It can be a difficult transition to adjust your lifestyle, to adapt to this new responsibility, and usually – fitness takes the backseat. That is totally understandable. No matter what ages your children are, your routine is bound to face many setbacks and changes, that’s life. If we are not changing, we are not growing; sometimes you just have to roll with it. Being a wife and a mother to 3 toddlers, I managed to lose 80 lbs. and through this process, I have learned a lot. This is simply a list of the top 5 strategies that I use to maintain a fitness regimen:

 

1. Set realistic expectations:

First, recognize your starting point. If you are unsure, or just starting out, one way you can take note of your fitness level is to walk/run outside, or hit the gym; notice how long it takes you to get winded, or tired. After having two babies and getting minimal exercise throughout my pregnancies, I got the urge to begin exercising again! I started by going on morning walks and doing yoga. This was helpful so that I could get my body used to moving regularly.  I noticed progress and felt happier, healthier, and more confident. Eventually after giving birth to my 3rd child, I joined a gym to participate in group classes. Now, 3 years later, that is all I do in the gym. I even enjoy doing two classes back-to-back when given the opportunity.

It was a gradual process with little baby steps. Making slight changes over time make a lasting difference! So, do not get discouraged if you feel like you are too far from where you want to be, and don’t rush. With effort and patience, you will one day be surprised at how far you have come. As a parent, your time is dedicated to shaping that little life, or lives, that you and your partner created. Try not to worry about having limited time. Just take note of where you are, get started, and watch yourself progress!

2. Eat a balanced diet:

When you eat properly, your body will respond with increased energy and mental clarity. Also, it will make exercising easier! Avoid eating out and enjoy using your kitchen. Not only will this save you money, but your kids will enjoy the comfort of a home, and home-cooked meal. This will bring you tons of positive energy. You will find more confidence in knowing the food you are putting in your body is good for you and your family. Also, as a little bonus, you will find confidence in your ability to create. Giving your body proper fuel will motivate you to move more and enjoy the moments you get to veer off and treat yourself!

3. Play with your children:

I know. It sounds too simple, because it is! Get up and run, jump, dance and play outside with them. Take them to the park and don’t just sit there on your phone. Get up and PLAY. Sure, it’s a great work out, but more importantly, your kids will be filled with joy to have their favorite person in the world playing with them. The joy it brings you and your kids will motivate and inspire you. This will keep you on track because not only are you moving your body, but you are nourishing your spirit and building a relationship with your kids. It feels good.  If your kids are at the age where they are too cool to play with their parents, invite them to jog or walk with you instead. There is always a way!

4. Challenge yourself:

Once you get into a groove, recognize it is important to continually learn and try new things. Having a routine is important, but monotony is detrimental to growth. Apply this mentality to your fitness regimen and mix it up! You may feel uncomfortable at first, but the results are beneficial. One way to look at it is to avoid solely focusing on your long-term goal. Set up mini challenges through the process and you will find motivation in accomplishing them. You will also be reminded why you started this journey. Plus, as a parent, your time is limited and your daily life tends to be hectic and busy. Making small goals for yourself can help limit any anxiety or worry that you may endure. So, when setting these challenges, it is a good idea to make sure it is something manageable for you. A few ideas are waking up early for the gym 3 days a week for a month, a 30-day yoga challenge, or going on a walk every day after dinner as a family. Pick something, set a reasonable time frame, and commit to completing it.

5. REST!

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, listen to your body. Being a parent requires many demands. Without proper rest, you have a greater chance of facing the feeling of burn out. Pushing yourself too much can send your results back, so be aware of that. After some time, you will have a better understanding of the signals your body is sending you when it needs to rest. The weeks can be filled with work and household obligations, the weekends are often packed with play, travel, and family time. Giving your body adequate rest will make it easier for your immune system to keep up with your fitness lifestyle and parenting responsibilities.

 

I hope this list will help any parent who may be finding it difficult to keep up with a fitness routine, or get started. Eat healthy, keep learning and move your body – it’s all about balance. By implementing these strategies, you will notice changes. Each positive change you make for yourself, the better off you and your loved ones will be. Just remember to be patient and enjoy the process!

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