The rich connection between creativity and wellness

I was delighted to be interviewed by Mari Ryan, whose company Advancing Wellness is a leader in establishing wellness programs that positively impact the lives of individuals and the companies in which they work.

When Mari and I connected last summer, I told her how interested I am in the intersection of creativity and wellness. She was surprised, and asked me to share my thinking with her. That conversation led Mari to asking me to be interviewed as part of Advancing Wellness's series of Expert Interviews.

It was a pleasure to speak with Mari for her series. Check out the conversation, and share your thoughts and comments below.

The gift of simplifying

Life is pretty cluttered for most of us.

We struggle to handle big work demands — which is taxing even if we are happy with the work we do, and certainly if we’re not.

Most of us cram personal time into evenings and weekends. But we often have a lot of practical things to do at those times too.

And taking care or ourselves — getting enough sleep, eating well, getting ample exercise, and just having some quiet time for ourselves — is a “luxury” that many of us rarely indulge in.

We pay a steep price when our health, happiness, relationships, and personal interests are short-changed.

What’s to be done? A good way to shift to having more balance, sanity, and ease is to simplify your life. Here’s an important first step to doing that.

Start simplifying by making YOU a bigger priority.

If you have hired me to coach you, or have attended one of my workshops, or been a reader of mine for a while, you’ve certainly heard me speak about the importance of self-love. Yes, I mean that when you love yourself, feel deserving, and treat yourself lovingly it’s healthy (not selfish!).

Think about what makes you happiest and what you really want for yourself. It may be a quiet time to soak in a tub one night a week. You may crave more time to read or play an instrument you haven’t picked up in memory. You may want to spend a Sunday each month having a wacky adventure with your family.

When you decide on ways that you want create more personal happiness and commit to them, you will more easily find opportunities — and ease — to say “NO” to other things so that you can build these priorities into your life and reduce overwhelm.

Devote a little time to pondering what would feed your soul, and how you can make YOU a priority in your life. When you begin to simplify to make your self-care a reality, you will certainly be happier. And, you will build awareness about the power you have to create in your life. The big bonus is that you’ll see how you can bring that new awareness to everything you do — you’ll find ways to simplify and prioritize in every part of your life.

If you are looking for some insight on your journey, I offer private coaching. Working one-on-one in a coaching engagement is a powerful way to make change in your life. I work with accomplished women who want to go higher, achieve more, get past the blocks that limit them, and soar in their lives — to live big. Learn more here.

My vision for a big new year

The year is off and running! In just the first couple of weeks, I’m experiencing a lot of positive energy and feeling that this will be a momentous year.

Yes — I, like many others, feel great uncertainty and deep concern about the direction our nation’s new administration is taking now and where it will go. But, I feel determined to make my voice heard, to take constructive action, and to do my important work. I want to be a force to support and inspire people to stand strong, to think creatively, and to be effective leaders in their lives and work. The collective, bold, creative thinking and action that we bring to our lives and our society are crucial now. If we succumb to fear and anxiety we will fail to think, and fail to act.

Here’s how I am moving forward:

1. I chose an important word to guide my year.

As many of my readers know, I am a big believer in choosing a guiding word for each year. Last year, I chose SAVOR. It guided me to slow down and appreciate everything — big and small — in my life, and it served me well. It helped me to create new awareness and habits, and enhanced my daily happiness. The gratitude I cultivated was a great balance to the stresses that came along.

My word for this year is VIBRANT — vibrant health, energy, creativity, thinking, service, and action. I am already feeling the power of this amazing word in my daily life!

2. I am already celebrating achievements.

I am celebrating good self-care, and that I am feeling stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I am celebrating that I have cleared my office of accumulated clutter, and have updated my systems so that I can keep my work space organized and functioning smoothly. I am celebrating that I have started to work with a terrific virtual assistant, and I look forward to how that help will free me to do more of the important projects I have planned.

3. I am finding inspiration and creating in exciting ways.

I visited the Museum of Fine Arts last week to see great work on exhibit before it leaves the museum. Standouts, in addition to William Merritt Chase, were The Clock, Terry Winter’s prints, and the Massed Media show. I will continue to visit museums and galleries regularly. And, in anticipation of the start of a painting course that I’m registered for at Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I have been painting in my studio. I am also finding the vision board I made in late 2016 to be an inspiration for the things I most want to manifest in my life now. Seeing it every morning keeps me taking action toward what I want most. All of these are sparking my thinking and awakening my heart every day.

And, connecting everything for me, love will continue to be my driving force, alongside creativity — in this year and every year. As I wrote in my email at the end of 2016, I ask myself every day if I am I serving myself, my family, my clients, my community and the world with a full heart. I am determined to model love and tolerance as I move through 2017.

How is your year starting? Have you chosen a guiding word for yourself? Do you find yourself struggling or feeling stuck? Let me know how you are feeling and doing as you look ahead to this new year. I would love to hear your thoughts.

What if? Why not?

In meeting with a client recently, we talked about what we do when we get stuck, or come to a fork in the road in terms of which ideas to develop. My client said that making two post-it notes, one that says, “What if?” and one that says, “Why not?” have served to inspire great thinking.

So, I started testing it. I’ve found that I love what happens when I have these prompts in front of me — and use them.

I have found that the questions work in a number of ways. “What if?” can stimulate lots of creative possibilities, which is exciting. And, the question can be turned into a challenge for myself — what if I tried something that feels intimidating, or what if I dared to dream bigger? And, “What if?” can make me test the possibilities of things that are not going so well, and consider how I can respond when that’s the case.

“Why not?” is a good way to test my ideas to see if they may be off base, or could be stronger. The question helps me consider the possible downside of an action or approach. It's also a wonderful way to encourage myself — as in, “Why not give it a try?” (And, if I feel resistance, I can explore the root of that response.)

And, right now these questions are helping me focus on a personal matter. I have a date with a surgeon in a couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to get a great deal of work done before then. At the same time, I realize that this is an enormously important time for me to slow down and take care of myself. So, the questions are helping me think about the big picture implications of my decisions in terms of my health.

“What if” I don't make the time to get extra exercise, in order to be as strong and fit as I can be before the surgery? And, “What if” something on my to-do list doesn’t get done and has to wait until I’m able to attend to it in August?

“Why not” decide to simply let myself take it slow for now, so that I will be well rested going into the procedure? “Why not” give myself permision to use the 4 to 6 weeks of recovery for rest, reading, writing and reflection? “Why not” trust that everything will unfold as it’s meant to, and that I will resume my work with more insight, energy, creativity and enthusiasm after this small piece of time? And, the biggest question: “Why not” put myself first when it’s so important?

As many of my readers have heard me espouse, the issue of self-love is enormously important. It is key to opening yourself creatively, and a foundation for living big. Self-care is always essential. Putting ourselves and our wellbeing high on our to-do lists may feel hard to do when we are busy with work, family and friends, volunteer commitments or personal projects. But taking good care of yourself needs to be a priority — even if your don't have a health matter on your mind.

Try using the two questions, “What if?” and “Why not?”. I have found them to be important and useful conversation starters with myself, and I hope that these two simple questions will help you, as well.