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

Even though I’m a painter, I have a strange fascination with words…

I think some words are alive, they seem to grow and become energetically charged.“Gratitude” has a kind of life force.  I think when repeated out loud or as a silent mantra it grows, gets plump, bold, beautiful, colourful, expands, begins to ripen becomes tangible, tactile and delicious.
"a mystery" oil on canvas 36"x36" SOLD
As a recipient of gratitude you can physically feel it.  When others stand with you, show up, lend a hand, create support, smile at you, hug you, and look you in the eye.  We can hear it even when the word itself isn’t spoken, in kind and encouraging words, in curiosity and interest.  We can embody gratitude as it can be expressed in our actions.There is another word that never tires of repetition but only grows in depth and meaning when you discuss it, share it, pass it along, and try to live by it.Have you heard of  “Ubuntu?” (and I’m not referring to the free OS system)It is a South African philosophy, best described by Desmond Tutu in the video below – but I’ll make an attempt.

The powerful message behind this idea was a tool used to challenge Apartheid.  We are all one, woven tightly together, interlinked so that when one of us suffers, we all suffer and when one of us shines, we all shine.   Nelson Mandela lived Ubuntu, forgiveness was his bright light.

Ubuntu encourages us to stand up for one another and support each other.  It asks us to celebrate our friend’s successes, encouraging them to shine brightly for when they shine, so then do we.

We need to be ourselves and express that self to the best of our ability.  We need each other to be bold and be bright to create this amazing tapestry of humanity; beautiful, strong and life supporting.

Gratitude & Ubuntu are interlaced in my world and growing stronger.  These ideas were forefront when I was painting  “this will the day.”  Here below.

"this will be the day" oil on canvas 48"x48"
So I’ll repeat, and help them both grow.  Thank-you.Thank-you for coming out to my art opening, for calling me, sending me notes of encouragement from afar, thank-you for talking to me about my paintings, thank-you for purchasing my artwork and thank-you for reading this blog. I am so motivated to paint right now – I’m bursting with ideas and energy, painting makes me feel shiny – thank-you for that incredible gift.

Namaste (The divine light in me bows deeply to the divine in you).
Marlene

Ubuntu - Desmond Tutu
Video – Ubuntu explained by Desmond Tutu – 2:15 minutes.