Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Unleashing Creative Flow: Nurturing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit

By Lynyetta G. Willis, PhD , @LynyettaWillis

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Sometimes, writing is hard. We might struggle with a plot, or struggle with getting any words down at all. On really bad days, we wonder if we should be chasing our writing dream at all. Lynyetta G. Willis takes the podium today to share some tips on finding and sustaining our creative energy.

Lynyetta is a psychologist, teacher, speaker, and author. Her debut children’s book, My Forgotten Self: A Story about a Girl, A Powerful Encounter, and a Universal Message, is a spiritual tale about a girl named Tiev, who is discouraged as she attempts to find her path in life. Upon encountering the powerful being, I Am, Tiev learns that she has the power within herself to do many things and is more valuable than she ever imagined. My Forgotten Self is available for pre-order and will be released in Spring 2016. As a psychologist, Lynyetta specializes in spiritually centered psychotherapy and trauma work. She also delivers workshops and speeches on spiritual growth and empowerment, mindful parenting, and the power of meditation.

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Take it away Lynyetta...

I don’t know about you, but when I am overly stressed, I struggle to create. If I am able to crank something out, it’s hard won and consumes huge amounts of time and energy. What’s more, in the end, I know it’s not my best work. The connection between stress and our mental, physical and spiritual well-being is not groundbreaking news. However, as writers, we often overlook these insights when facing deadlines and obligations.

Fun fact: When we fail to nurture our whole selves we minimize our creative flow—

When we fail to nurture our bodies, our minds becomes weak and unfocused.

When we fail to nurture our minds, our bodies feel paralyzed; our fingers rest motionless on the keyboard as our eyes will the cursor to move.

When we fail to nurture our minds and bodies, the spiritual connection to our deep well of creative energy feels broken; the writing that once brought so much joy takes a permanent backseat or seems like an endless chore.

The good news: If we take conscious steps to nurture our minds, bodies, and spirits, we enhance our ability to connect to the creative energy that exists within us all.

1. Nurture Your Body

Researchers have consistently shown a link between exercise, diet, and creativity. Luckily, you do not have to train for a triathlon to see creative benefits.

Take a 20-minute walk before writing. Yes, that’s 20 minutes you are not writing, but the internal creative flow you unleash may be well worth it. Stanford researchers concluded that walking outdoors can significantly enhance creativity.

Walking increases the oxygen flow to our brains and more oxygen means more creative brain functioning.

Plan your meals the night before. It is easy for me to grab a muffin in the morning. However, similar to exercise, a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, proteins and fats enhances creativity.

Avoid deciding your menu when you’re hungry or in a hurry; if you do, your choices will likely lack balance.

At the very least, mentally prepare your meals the night before. If you plan to make a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast, the likelihood of settling for a scone or a cup of coffee decreases.

2. Nurture Your Mind

Nothing stops my creative flow like internal and external critics. Preparing and guarding our minds helps to minimize the creative blocks that can result from unhelpful feedback.

Counter the critics. The voices in our heads can be relentless: “I can’t do this…my ideas aren’t good enough…writing is a selfish waste of time…I can’t write as well as her or him…” Such phrases are born out of fear and anxiety.

Develop a list of affirmations born out of compassion and wisdom.

“I give myself permission to sit down and write everyday… writing is practicing self-care and when I care for myself I am able to give to others…my writings are an outward expression of my spirit andare therefore good enough.” Read these phrases daily.

Reminder: Inner critics are noisiest when we’re tired. Take a 20-30-minute break at least every 2 hours. Also, get sleep and make time for fun.

Find your creative tribe. Requesting external feedback is tricky. You cannot judge its helpfulness until you’ve heard it. Requesting feedback from someone within your creative tribe increases the odds that the feedback, whether, critical or glowing, will be helpful.

Your creative tribe consists of people who resonate with you, your work, and your message.

When you interact with tribe members, you feel supported, connected, and safe. In addition, feedback from a creative tribe member is more likely to be in-line with your readers’ perspectives. If you feel consistently drained, confused, afraid, or anxious after receiving feedback from a particular person or group, this is sign that they may not be in your creative tribe.

3. Nurture Your Spirit

Our spirits are boundless parts of us that contain endless supplies of creative energy. We become most aware of our spiritual essence when we make time to be still and listen for creative inner guidance.

Practice creative surrender.

“Why is it I get my best ideas while shaving?” ~Albert Einstein.

Our consistent need to critique our writing often minimizes our creative flow. Conversely, we do not have to consciously think to perform repetitive activities such as swimming, driving, knitting, or showering. As a result, such activities encourage surrender and openness to the creative process. Harvard researchers concluded that wandering minds are associated with high levels of creativity. When engaging in monotonous activities, we are less likely to involve our critical mind; other parts of our brain are free to make creative connections.

Feeling stuck? Do something mindless! When we focus on being vs. doing we are more open and receptive to creative “aha’s” and creative flow.

Engaging in artistic endeavors outside of our specialties allows for creative surrender as well—writers, paint! Painters, knit! Knitters, dance! When we participate in unfamiliar activities, we are more likely to remain open to and enjoy the process without judging the product.

Listen to your inner guide.

“Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness.” ~Shakti Gawain.

Our inner guide is a powerful escort into the core of our needs at any given moment. When we lack clarity or our bodies are exhausted, stillness can lead to inner wisdom.

Focused and mindful eating, sitting, or walking, help calm anxious internal voices.

Once in a calm mental space, ask “what do I need most right now?” or “where does this chapter want to go from here?” Listen to the answer that comes from the deep place within you.

How do you nurture your mind, body and spirit? How do you unleash your creative flow?

About My Forgotten Self: A Story about a Girl, A Powerful Encounter, and a Universal Message

Tiev is a playful girl who vividly dreams about the many paths her life can take. However, when she shares these dreams with her well-intentioned family, they quickly tell her why she cannot be any of the things her heart desires. Feeling lost, hurt, and confused, Tiev encounters a powerful and loving Being, I Am. Tiev gets a glimpse into who she truly is and the amazing gifts waiting for her along each of her desired paths.

In this fantastical tale, illustrated with vibrant and culturally diverse pictures, follow Tiev and embrace an opportunity to reflect on who we are as spiritual beings.

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  1. Excellent advice and just what I needed today! Thank you, Lynyette, for sharing your wisdom. My Forgotten Self, sounds wonderful. Wishing you many sales!

    1. Hi Sia, I am so glad this article was helpful to you today! Thank you so much for the kind words and well wishes. I appreciate you. Warmly, Lynyetta

  2. This is really, really fine advice, Lynetta, an absolutely excellent reminder to us all. Too many writers neglect everything that they don't immediately see as work, and this sadly includes their bodies. I think people also often fail to understand where the words that appear and are put on paper by the conscious mind have their origins: and the subconscious, where our muse resides, will sicken and become unproductive unless nourished.

    There's also the time paradox. It's easy to think that time spent exercising or preparing nutritious food is time taken from writing, but that's not entirely correct: by taking care of the whole person, we *gain* energy, we don't lose it. Someone who exercises, plays or practices mindlessness, and has a good diet is likely to both have more energy and lower cortisol levels, and suffer less distracting, tiring stress and scolding from that inner critic than someone who doesn't. More energy and lower stress allows for better focus and productivity.

    The only thing I might add to your terrific advice is the benefit of developing regular habits in all this things, of incorporating them into one's daily routine so they become part of one's lifestyle. This takes a few weeks for most people (neural rewiring), but once good habits established, the benefits and rewards become very clear.

    Thanks again for this fine and very important post!


    1. Hello Dario, such good points! Thank you for weighing in on this post. Yes, unfortunately, ignoring our physical needs to meet goals and deadlines, can cost us more time and energy than exercising or making a healthy snack. However, to your wonderful final point, self-care habits can be difficult to integrate. As a result, so many people give up on them before those neural pathways form. I completely agree that slowly integrating small changes for three weeks at a time can really help to make the habits stick. Thank you so much for commenting! Warmly, Lynyetta