With the recent loss of two famously creative people, America is having long-overdue conversations about recognizing depression, and greater openness about mental health issues and the availability of help (and there’s a LOT help).
The tragic loss of these two (one a fashion designer, the other a food and culture writer) also reminds us of the ongoing discussion of the relationship between creativity and depression disorders. The relationship can be exaggerated and romanticized, but it is true that artists, writers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and other creatives have a higher incidence of depression. But the news isn’t all bad.
First of all, there is far more help for depression today than there has ever been before. Secondly, depressive disorders can actually enhance your creativity in at least these four ways:
1. ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF SEEING:
Melancholy moods seem to encourage people to see the world in new ways, bringing enhanced alertness, and openness to experience. The contemplation that comes from pain opens our eyes to see details most people miss. For example, professional comics who work through their depression are masters at poking fun at the odd, laughable behaviors the rest of us never knew we had.
2. MORE CURIOSITY:
Those suffering from depression, whether occasional or chronic, ask more questions. People who are content rarely ask “why?” or search the world for solutions. Author Henry David Thoreau (who arguably spent too much time alone in the woods) is an example of someone who was determined to live a life of wonder, investigating the worlds of nature and humanity. And the world is richer for his quest.
3. CREATIVE ANSWERS:
At the heart of depression is a discontent, which can drive us to find more answers. It should come as no surprise that many science and health professionals deal with depression, which becomes a fuel that drives their research. And when artists creatively work through their personal challenges, the world becomes richer in books, plays, music, films, and fine arts.
4. INCREASED EMPATHY:
Those who struggle with mood disorders often have a greater ability to empathize with others’ problems. Our own blues can make us hypersensitive to other people, enabling us to effectively connect with them through art. This is why writers who deal with depression can create such realistic, true-to-life characters that seem to pop out of the page.
FEELING DEPRESSED? USE THESE TIPS!
• See a mental health professional or doctor. They know how to help. (That’s what they are there for.)
• Get moving! There is a real connection between our bodily health (exercise and eating better) and our mental/emotional well being.
• Spend time with people. Resist that tendency to isolate, and find ways to get involved (even if you don’t feel like it).
• Talk about your feelings. Don't leave them bottled up, but be open about your issues.
• Get outdoors. Humans were created to experience nature. Camping, star-gazing, or a walk in the park can do wonders for your mood.
• Be a help. When you contribute to the lives of others, you put your own problems in better perspective. And the joy you offer to others somehow returns to you.
• Turn off social media! It creates the illusion that everyone else's life is better than yours. Social media also trains people to become isolated spectators in life instead of real participants.
• Meditate and practice gratitude. While “thinking positive” is not a complete answer, it’s an important part of the whole. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV Bible).
• Realize you're part of a BIG club. You’re not alone. Countless others with similar experiences manage to find joy and purpose in life — and you can too.
“Life is beautiful in spite of everything. . . . There are many thorns, but the roses are there too.”
(Russian composer, Tchaikovsky)
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