Think, Live, December 2, 2018

The 12 Most Important Things I Learnt From 28 Days Of Drawing

I got fed up awhile back that I could really find the answers I was looking for with regards to my health. What is healthy? What makes me happy? Is someone healthy if they workout 3 times a week, eat a perfect diet but their stress levels are through the roof? What if you you’re a raw vegan – does that make you feel better than eating meat? There are so many different facets when it comes to our health and what works for some, might not work for others. So, I started experimenting on myself to see what worked and what didn’t. One of my favourite experiments to date is 28 Days of Drawing; I wanted to see if having a daily creative habit had any effect on my health and happiness. Check out my surprising findings below.

Before the experiment I was doing a bit of dabbling at home – drawing a few sketches of things I found online. We had a team of builders in our apartment at the time and I was sooo embarrassed to be drawing. Not because I’m a beginner – I really didn’t care what I  created, but because it felt indulgent, it felt like I was being a bit of a princess just sitting there with my sketch pad while they were working.

At the time I didn’t really understand that having a daily creative practice, like drawing, could be so important to our health. As the experiment went on I began to notice a big difference in my stress levels, anxiety, confidence and mental clarity, and I generally felt happier and more at ease – more at home in my own skin I guess. I no longer felt embarrassed drawing in front of people – I developed a new found respect for creativity and understood the importance of gifting yourself the space to play and create.

From a creativity perspective 28 Days Of Drawing was never about if I could learnt to draw better, but instead how the experience made me feel. It was about seeing if I could allow myself the space to find my own creative groove, see if I could better manage my inner negative self talk, see if it impacted my mindset, and determine if I could consider myself “creative”.

My 12 Most Significant Observations and Changes

  1. I found that as the experiment went on I was having more moments of complete calm – where I could easily sit and just be – observe and not fidget; be present and not run through to-do lists in my head. I wasn’t expecting this (I found this with 28 Days of Meditation as well) but there was something about sitting and drawing each day that made me really comfortable with just being.
  2. I’ve found that I was actively looking around for inspiration and things to draw, which is a nice distraction from my constant internal dialogue.
  3. At the start of the experiment I wasn’t comfortable drawing with people around. This wasn’t because I was a beginner, it was more about the fact that drawing felt indulgent and I didn’t feel like I could ‘allow’ myself the time and space to draw. I understand the benefits so much more now and don’t feel this way at all.
  4. I found that after a couple of weeks I was able to get more into my flow state.
  5. I feel like it helped with stress relief.
  6. I found that making it fun and playful really does play an important role in creativity – drawing with my eyes closed, with my left hand or drawing really fast removed my expectations and the pressure (that I was unconsciously applying to the task). As soon as it was fun, and free; and with less expectations, I enjoyed the experience so much more and was (potentially) more creative. Find your inner child, they are hiding in there somewhere!
  7. I found that making it fun and playful really helped with making it a daily habit. It’s so much easier to motivate yourself to do something if you like it and get joy out of the experience.
  8. I found it really difficult to be ok with the imperfections. I don’t like mess and things being out of place or disorganised but this, I’ve realised, is where the creativity is lurking.
  9. Space is key – trying to approach creativity and drawing with an agenda, or pressure to perform or any sort of rigidity will result in something that feels forced. So how do we find this space? I think it’s unique for every person but for me drawing in the early morning, or very late at night was helpful…when everyone is asleep, the house is quiet and it’s dark outside.
  10. Consistency is key – each day it was easier to quickly jump back into my creative groove without giving it much thought, this wouldn’t have been the case if I was just going to drawing class once a week. Making something a habit is key to making a positive change in your life, whatever that change is.
  11. Expectations, rigidity, planning, speed, pressure all smoother creativity.
  12. With this experiment I planned and structured it way less than usual. This was because I working with the incredible Cath – (my mentor for the experiment who was in charge of the daily tasks.) This was really uncomfortable for me at the start, but I think the letting go, and being slightly less prepared each day, really benefited the experiment and journey.

So What’s The Verdict?

After drawing everyday for 28 days I felt calmer, more in touch with what I really feel about a situation (stronger connection to my gut feeling), a sense of lightness and ease and yep, definitely happier. The feeling isn’t dissimilar to after I meditated for 28 days in a row.

I had this preconceived perception that because I didn’t do something creative for my work, I wasn’t creative. The fact is, we all are, in our own unique and special ways. Perhaps ice carving is your thing, or building miniature models, or making earrings, or doing poetry readings or origami or something else entirely that lights you up and makes you feel good. It’s not about how good you are at it, it’s about allowing yourself the space, and the time, to explore these things, let your creativity open you up.

But I think the most surprising realisation that came out of this for me was around the importance of creativity. I didn’t realise it but because I didn’t completely understand the benefits, I saw it as a ‘nice to have’, something you do only once all the other ‘important’ things are taken care of and you have some extra time. I can now confidently say that doing something creative – ideally everyday – has a positive impact on mental health and general wellbeing. It’s not a nice to have, its so incredibly important. Making it a habit is key – you need to find a way to do it on a regular basis and adding a big chunk of fun and lightheartedness is super important. Most of the time we are only limited by what we believe to be true so get out of your head, pick up a pencil or paint brush or cookbook or camera and do something creative for you. I did something creative for me, for a whole 28 amazing, fun, beautiful days and it felt really awesome.

If you want to read about my journey, or see what I created over the 28 days – take a look here.

28 Days of Drawing
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