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10 surprisingly easy ways to enjoy a stress-free holidays.

Be playful and exercise your creativity!  Why?  Read on to learn how creative play can banish stress and make your holidays a whole lot happier!

  1. Write a love letter – to your grandmother, your partner, your child – send it old school (in the mail) as a holiday card or even in an email with holiday greetings.  Tell them why you love them, thank them for being there for you – this will make you feel amazing and them too – studies show that writing letters of gratitude increases happiness!
  2. Sing – in the shower, in the car, let it rip, crank the tunes, plan a little carolling – come on you know you love them – singing is energizing, healing and a stress reducer and did you know that singing actually releases pain relieving endorphins.
  3. Make stuff – use your hands.  Hang out with kids and build some Lego spacecrafts – show them how it was done – before there were kits & instruction booklets, or get outside and build a snowman or a fort.  Research shows that using your hands to make things (especially playful, non “productive” stuff) helps decrease stress, relieves anxiety and depression.  Yippee!
  4. Read – reach for some feel good reads.  And try, READING OUT LOUD – even adults love to hear a story read to them. Infuse your voice in those holiday favourites for the family or try curling up with something saucy & that special someone (Santa-baby!)  Along with the countless benefits of reading – reading out loud creates stronger bonds between you and your loved ones.
  5. Doodle – it’s o.k. – science backs it up – doodling is actually good for you.  It can stimulate creative thinking, whole-brain thinking and help build a variety of pathways for problem solving.  Maybe you can turn your funky designs into some wrapping paper or a holiday card.  Here’s a great TED Talk on the subject featuring doodling guru Sunni Brown. (I was so inspired writing this article – I made “colouring pages” for you!)
  6. Let’s Dance!  Dancing, yoga, and Nia are a wonderful outlets for your creativity!  We know that moving our bodies improves our physical health but research is pointing to further health benefits, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, which equals a greater sense of well-being. Sign up for some classes as a gift for yourself and/or a loved one, go out on a dancing date or two this season and blast the tunes in the living room with the whole family!  If you are on the Sunshine Coast, I offer yoga classes and my dear friend, Jan Jensen is a superb Nia instructor!  See you on the dance floor!
  7. Take that hard to buy for someone out on an Art-Inspired Date!  Stressed about finding the perfect thing?  Switch it up and make a date to spend time with a loved one instead – tour local galleries or artist studios add coffee/tea & a treat – wah lah the perfect gift!  Viewing artwork is inspiring, creates interesting dialogue and helps you stay in the present moment – a sweet reprieve.  If you are on the Sunshine Coast, you can visit the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, the Sunshine Coast Art Centre or look up studios on the Purple Banner Tour (membership to public galleries also makes a thoughtful gift).
  8. Colour – Yup.  Science says “The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” Colouring books for big people are a fad that is here to stay!  I’ve turned some of my doodles into a coloring book – treat yourself to a box of crayons and relaaax!
  9. colouringphoto_18Plan an Arts & Crafts session – this is a fun way to play with friends and family – create 2015 Vision Boards using magazine images & collage or make a collaborative canvas, everyone adds to the masterpiece.  Spending time together playing is an invaluable gift to give.  A little intimidated?  I offer workshops  – gift yourself and friend – come play.
  10. Eat really dark chocolate – this has nothing to do with creativity but I read that really dark chocolate has all sorts of health benefits and that it can reduce your stress hormones – enjoy! – p.s.  A favourite chocolatier of mine.

Wishing you a playful, joyous, happy and relaxing holiday season!

What do you do to destress?  How do you play over the holidays?  Please share to inspire the rest of us!

My Sources (some really interesting stuff!)

Books:

Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

Creative Confidence – David Kelley & Tom Kelley

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – Betty Edwards

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Articles:

“The health benefits of love letters and kindness” – Victoria Batacan

“Life-Affirming Benefits of Singing – Vocalizing Promotes Well Being” – Patty Mills

The Creativity Cure, A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness” – Carrie Barron, M.D.

“Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress” – The Huffington Post | By Elena Santos

“Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter” – Richard Powers

TED Talks:

Doodlers, Unite! – Sunni Brown

How to Build Your Creative Confidence – David Kelley – founder IDEO & d.school Stanford University

The process creates the meaning.

process creates the meaningMy paintings often reflect the internal debate I’m experiencing looking for the harmony between structure and freedom.

I had the opportunity to travel for a week a few summers ago on the Northern route of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, often called The Way. We averaged 24km a day, it was steep, muddy, it rained, our backpacks were way too heavy, our knees and ankles were swollen and there were times when all I could do was count my next steps.

The journey didn’t really make much sense. We could have hopped on a bus, train or plane to get to our destination. It took tremendous discipline at times to get on the trail at 7:00am, especially when it was raining and we were sore from the day before.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I hope to walk the entire journey – approximately 40 days.

It was beautiful.

The structure, the discipline allowed us to feel free. It allowed us to escape from our everyday lives, we forget the day and the date, we were free to really and truly slow down, unplug and feel the sweet simplicity of taking it one step at a time.

We quickly formed friendships with other peregrinos (pilgrims) from all over the world; young and old, speaking different languages and living lives so different from our own.

It was meaningful and real.

How did this experience influence my art?

I’m seeking some quiet space, some structure on the canvas – allowing me to tap into and express with spontaneity and freedom – letting the journey, the process create the meaning.

The alternative is chaos.

“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.”

Katharine Hepburn

 

Well that’s a bit of a killjoy isn’t it?  Or is it?

We had a beautiful long extended summer here on the West Coast.

Divine.

However, by the 2nd week of September I was struggling.

Routine was calling me to return to order and productivity.  Fall is a roll up my sleeves time of the year for me, especially knowing that holiday festivities are actually not that far ahead.

I’m preparing for The Sunshine Coast Art Crawl and my paintings reflect the internal dialogue I’m having about structure and freedom. How much structure is enough, when does it feel constricting and when does it actually support me and all that I love to do?

I’ve been paying attention to how much routine I need, I’ve been playing with what I think my boundaries are; exploring tools like time blocking, realistic to do lists, daily rituals like my meditation practice & a cup of tea and a silly reminder to floss my teeth (I know).

I’m making peace with my inner time-keeper and realizing that because of her, I get my stuff done, and truly enjoy the sweetness of free time. I make sure she isn’t so out of control as to not let me revel in the beauty of spontaneity and I demand that she books me some space for nothingness. It is an ebb and flow – at times she can be a real bitch but in a good friend kind of way.

When it comes to my art, I’m seeking some quiet space, some structure on the canvas to let my message unfurl, shine and be as expressive as I possibly can muster.

The alternative is chaos.

Your thoughts? Your tools? Please share.

 

Funny, when I paint . . .

I often think I have to have it all figured out first.

However, when I allow myself to just start, what I am creating begins to show itself and I gain clarity in the process.

Jumping in forces me to break habits which is kind of exciting.

Questions will come up like –

Why do I do what I do?  What propels me?  Where am I blocked?  What or who am I influenced by?

“Write (paint) what you know,” in this case gets challenged by write (paint or fill in the blank) what you want to know.

I’ve stopped worrying. Yippee!

Do I get frustrated and blocked?  Oh ya… 
I’ve learned to expect set backs and sometimes I even have to start all over again.

I now recognize this as a natural process and absolutely necessary to making something that I’m proud of.

I welcome the discoveries, the accidents, and the “wrong turns” because they are never a waste of time just an opportunity to stir up something new and juicy.

When we are willing to take risks and just start, we all benefit. (I’m sure I read that somewhere as a well articulated quote – I’m game, how about you?)
Namaste

Marlene

p.s. If you are scared to start – get your hands on this great little book –“Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon, it will make you smile while giving you a kick in the ass or come paint with me!