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Pathways to Wellness: Reflections on the Core Value of Creativity


Over the past year of pandemic living I’ve revisited core values as reminders of what to do, what to say, where to go, when the going gets rough. By stepping one foot after the next into curiosity and connection, I have experienced the benefit of these bedrocks, when the topsoil feels shaky with uncertainty. Rounding out my top three core values is creativity – the positive, generative energy that flows within and around us, and offers opportunities for healing throughout.

As an admirer of the arts, I love taking in the typical ways we imagine creativity – dance, theater, music, comedy, visual and graphic arts, and more. While heeding a craving for creative outlets this year in particular, I experienced creative expression to have a powerful impact on health and well-being. Now rising to a need-to-have more than a nice-to-have level, I would add it as a category to my own personal wellness wheel.

  • puzzle piecesCreative pause: When you have a sense of overwhelm arising, take a “Me Moment” to create. Process and channel your big emotions using any tactile outlet – puzzles, building blocks, art supplies, or pencil and paper. Even five minutes can produce a soothing response.

In addition to creativity as artistic endeavors, I find a source of wellness in creativity as enacted through civic-minded, social justice activities and connection. Creativity is at play as we strive to liberate our thinking, to generate our individual, authentic energy with which to imagine and build our world anew.  To be alive and present at this moment, as we gradually return to in-person school, work, and community life in the pandemic, is to show up with intentional, courageous, and persistent imagination. It is to activate ourselves into a new way of doing and being.

  • Creative pause: As you begin the day, walk out the front door, or take a break during meetings, slow down and reorient yourself to ask: What am I hoping to generate today? What am I delighted to give of myself today to create something better for all of us?

In the youth development and expanded learning sector, authentic caring relationships are crucial to program quality. We are called upon every day to bring the best of ourselves and to give our unique, life-giving energy. Similarly, all mission-driven organizations are summoned forth by a vision statement, a committed dream for the future that by definition does not exist yet and will only arrive through persistent line of sight toward what’s possible. During a year that’s cracked open with so much pain, it will take deep, pervasive change to repair unjust systems and dominant cultural patterns in order to heal together. Any break from the status quo requires creative energy into action.

  • Creative pause: Exercise empathy with imagination by active listening. Create empty space in your mind to withholdwoman looking at images posted on a white wall with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling in the foreground assumptions or judgement of self and others. When someone is speaking of their personal experiences, be willing to step into their shoes for that moment to more deeply understand. As you step back into your own shoes, allow courage and compassion to increase your clarity of the situation, and guide your response. Make room for perspectives that are typically marginalized or unheard.

We can open up to healing ourselves and our communities with creative energy, sparking innovation big and small, by exploring tools to envision new ways of working. When each of us owns our agency to know and express ourselves more deeply, we take another step toward the authentic creative power to improve our world. It takes creativity to find accountability in our work, to be willing to do and be differently, to practice our own possession of possibility. Empathy, innovation, and hope are creative muscles needed to sustain us as we walk the road toward positive social change.

  • Creative pause: Source and nurture your own sense of inspiration through daydreaming, experiences in nature, political activism, joyful activities, uplifting music, videos, or podcasts on a regular basis. Allow feelings of hopefulness to guide your actions and words.

Now well into spring, we have arrived to the season of rebirth. It is the time to release and transform anything that feels stuck inside. As we cautiously open back up to our communal lives, we can more easily perceive the light at the end of the tunnel. This moment of tension between hope and hesitation holds the re-evaluation of what matters to us most, if we walk into it with attention.

For breakfast, I had cheese and tomato on whole wheat bread.

Author: @aresnick

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