Sunlight through clouds

Manage your misery

“Darkness is the source of creation.”

Michael Meade, Mosaic Multicultural Foundation

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.

Specifically, it can help you:

  • Let out painful emotions
  • Find flow
  • Escape pain

Read more about how and why. Or watch this local news story about the studio where I do mosaics and the woman who opened it from place of grief to be a comfort for others facing a loss.

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.

  • Color, as in with colored pencils, pens, or crayons. It sounds silly, but it’s relaxing, lets your mind frolic, and is a healthier alternative than mind-numbing TV. (Or get out the colors while you watch.) Go outside of the lines if you like! Mandala coloring books are terrific for this, but you could even color in the margins and around the text of a newspaper, for instance. When you’re done, reflect: Do your color choices or intensities express buried emotions?
  • Doodle. Any pen, any paper, any shapes. Let your hand move by itself in expression. Copy patterns you see in your surroundings. You may be amazed at what you can draw when you don’t think it matters.
  • Whittle. (Carefully.) What you make doesn’t matter—kindling, maybe? The repetitive motion and attention to the results of each cut can induce flow.
  • Visit a fabric or yarn store. Don’t just look—touch. Don’t overlook the silky embroidery floss and ribbons. Which colors and textures appeal? Are you prompted to buy anything simply for its color? You can always wrap treasures in it, line a drawer, drape it over a lampshade, or tie it around a tree in your yard.
The intense colors of a grief quilt that first soothed my heart after a loss.
  • Experiment with a child’s watercolor kit. Try adding salt, dish soap, or clear soda. Paint your bathtub or a window. (It’ll wash off. Just watch for drips on carpets, clothing, or drapes that might be harder to clean.)
  • Indulge in scent. Go to a health food store or similar location with essential oils. Sniff until your nose tires. What memories do different scents provoke?
  • Dig in the earth. Plant seeds in an egg carton or window box—they only cost a few dollars—or move or divide plants you already have. I know one woman who created a lovely floral memory garden in memory of her lost. It’s a constant reminder of their love.
  • Color eggs. It’s not just for Easter, and they’re more fun to eat! Experiment with beets, purple cabbage, onions, and dandelions for natural dyes. Or decorate them with Sharpie pens.
  • Cook or bake something—the anger-releasing cucumber salad from the link or maybe cookies or cupcakes you can decorate, too.

The possibilities are endless, and the results do not matter. Actively following your senses does. Notice your interaction with colors, shapes, sounds, tastes, and textures while trying not to criticize the results. (Don’t let others, either.) How does it make you feel to create?

Becoming more mindful of the creative process is an important first step toward reaching that flow state—and the lightness it brings—more often.