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It’s no secret that creativity is one of the best habits that we can practice for a healthy mind. Now, this has never been much of a problem for me – I come from a very creative family that loves to spend time making music together, telling stories, and building things. At a very young age, I was exposed to several different instruments, and I gained a basic knowledge of how to play them. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, and I love to spend my time doing a myriad of other creative activities – like painting, journaling, photography, and pretty much anything else you can think of. So, it was no surprise to my family and friends when I told them that I wanted to pursue a music degree in college. While being surrounded by many other creative personalities, I got an up-close look at the work ethic of creative people. For some of my colleagues, art and music was their entire life. For others, art was just an outlet that they used to break up the monotony of their daily lives. In my time around creative people, I’ve found that if we’re not careful, those of us whose lives revolve around creativity are in danger of letting our creativity hold us back.

Let me explain: for many artists and creative personalities – myself included – we can often become so invested in our art that nothing we create is ever truly good enough. We can pour our heart and souls into our creations, but we are never truly satisfied. That’s where creativity with responsibility comes into play. Even the most creative of people must have enough confidence to reach a point in their creation that they are willing to “set down the brush” and finish. It is incredibly destructive to constantly be thinking negative thoughts – especially about ourselves and the things that we have created. When we do this, we block ourselves from receiving all the positive things that creativity would otherwise have to offer us.

How Creativity Helps Us Grow

There is something so liberating about being creative. When we engage in creative activities – such as drawing, writing, singing, and the like – our minds perk up, and we start to move out of our comfort zone just a bit. Think about it – truly great art is almost never borne out of someone’s comfort zone. It’s when we become vulnerable and open up the deepest parts of ourselves that we begin to paint with broader strokes and are able to create a true work of art.

Creativity is freeing. It is a kind of deliverance.

But creativity isn’t something that should be practiced recklessly.

Why It’s Important to Practice Responsible Creativity

When I spoke with Dr. Elvira Aletta, P.h.D, director and founder of Explore What’s Next, the theme of “Responsible Creativity” shone through almost every word she spoke. As a professional, she seeks to incorporate creativity into her practice in unique ways every day. But she knows that practicing safe habits is the most important thing in life, and especially in a profession that deals with another person’s wellbeing. Dr. Aletta had this to say on the subject of responsible creativity:

“When we start developing as a professional, we’re extra cautious about following the rules – kind of like learning how to drive a car. Over time, we learn to be less cautious, but we still follow the rules. In psychotherapy, we have foundational rules that keep us coloring within the lines. When we gain years of experience, that’s when we can start to be creative – we can color outside the lines a bit, but we still know where the boundaries are between responsible and irresponsible… For example, if I have a client that is really anxious during a therapy session, we can go for a walk. That’s busting the norms but in a responsible way. It helps us both to open up a little bit better and ultimately have a better talk.”

The line between responsible and irresponsible creativity gets drawn when things start becoming unsafe for you and someone else close to you. Safety should always be a top priority.

It is rare that our creativity becomes a hindrance in our personal growth and mental health. But we must always make sure that we put our health first.

The Studio @ Explore What’s Next offers classes that are geared towards helping people have a more positive mindset in their daily life, and that definitely applies to creativity. For example, taking a mindfulness class is a great way to learn how to approach your work (and your life) with a positive, refreshed perspective. It can help you get in touch with yourself and improve your mental health. And it can ultimately help you become a better, well-balanced artist.

Practicing responsible creativity will look different for everyone. For some, maybe it means assigning specific times a day to practice an instrument and not exceeding that time limit. For others, maybe it means writing a short journal entry every night before bed to unwind after a long day. It might even mean putting down the pen and letting your creation be finished – even if you can still see tiny flaws in it that make it imperfect.

Creativity gives us a special kind of freedom that everyone should experience in their lives in some form or another. Practicing responsible, creative habits will improve our mental health, and give us opportunities to grow into people that we never dreamed we could be.