Spotted orange butterfly
Manage Your Misery

The Painkilling Power of Creativity

Delving into a creative pursuit—or simply feasting your senses on colors, textures, and sounds—can soothe pain, whether from loss, relationship or health problems, or simple stress. New creative activities—mosaics and hand-drumming, to name two—have helped me; I’m convinced that more mindful creativity can help you, too.

Let painful emotions escape

When you focus on expressing tough emotions through a creative act, instead of merely feeling (or stuffing) them, they weigh less. Photography is one easy way. This online grief photography class goes deep, but grief is just one emotion you can put into images in just a half-hour or so.

Try it: Spend an hour outside snapping images (or colors, or shapes) that seem to capture your anger, frustration, or other pain. Focusing on an image allows you to feel the emotion while displacing its intensity in a healthy way.

Pounding a hammer can be similarly therapeutic. Knock together a garden fence or rustic bird-feeder while you’re at it.

Find flow

By focusing on creation, on shape and order and beauty, we connect to something greater, at least temporarily. This sensation is called flow.

People in flow lose track of time and their problems, stepping outside of themselves and their pain. You don’t have to be an artist or athletes—anyone who focuses intensely on an activity they enjoy can find flow. It provides energy, clarity, and endurance we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Become absorbed

Find a creative pastime that absorbs your attention. It’ll absorb your pain, too. Start small. You don’t have to learn a new skill, though once you get started, you may want to. Here are a few ideas; pick one that appeals and try it! Or follow your own creative longing.


  • Dave Polhamus

    Hi Joni–

    I have your book–Traditions Through The Trees. Very interesting. I’ve gone through it several times. You see, I used to do that stuff. I was a logger. I worked for Weyerhaeuser out of North Bend, Oregon. Not quite 30 years, though I got the 30 year pin. I’m retired, now. In your book, on page 97 it mentions the North Bend mill, in passing. That’s all. At one time, there was a sign at the common Coos Bay–North Bend, city limits edge–“Largest Lumber Shipping Port in The World”. Times change.

    On a different note, I’ve been published–not on the scale that you have, of course. For me, it has been gratifying. If you begin offering classes again, I’d consider signing up. Thank you for your efforts.


    • Joni Sensel

      Hi Dave — I don’t know if you’ll see this, but thanks for finding me here and leaving your comment! (I will say that early drafts of that book had more stories and details for several facilities, but had to be cut for length. And sometimes politics, ha. I’ve never been to the NB sawmill but spent loads of time at the NB paper mill, including one really fun photo shoot with employees that we used on a couple of posters, back in the day.) And congrats on getting your words or stories out there! Things are a bit weird with the pandemic and a new puppy keeping me far too busy, but I’ll do more classes again, hopefully soonish, and will post about them here. Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer.

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