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How To Turn Sadness Into Creativity

How To Turn Sadness Into Creativity

Sadness is something we often experience in our lives whether short-term or long-term. Negative emotions can be difficult to deal with especially in a society that has deemed such emotions as something we shouldn’t dwell on. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the negative emotions are just as important as the positive ones.

Negative emotions are crucial for our overall happiness and well-being. They are there to tell us something, help us make sense of life’s ups and downs and evaluate our experiences. When they do come up, they are not to be judged or suppressed but rather should be seen as a tool for getting yourself back onto the right track.

When we encounter negativity, it is important that we focus on how to make use of it rather than try to eliminate it altogether. Having a positive outlook on life is extremely beneficial, but for a lot of us it can be a challenge to reach this state on a regular basis. But did you know that finding ways to channel your negative thoughts and emotions can bring about a great amount of creativity?

What Science Teaches Us About Negativity and Creativity

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    There have been many successful authors and artists that have been famed for having periods of emotional turmoil resulting in the creation of some of the world’s most beautiful artistic works. Is this a cliche or is there a connection between negative emotions and creativity?

    It has been long thought that positive emotions are what fuels our creativity but researchers are finding out that our most complex creative ideas do emerge from dark periods.

    In the paper The Dark Side of Creativity: Biological Vulnerability and Negative Emotions Lead to Greater Artistic Creativity” written by Modupe Akinola, a study was conducted involving positive and negative responses to a group of people asked to talk about their dream jobs. Each person received either positive or negative feedback from the people listening to them. After the experiment, the participants were asked to create a collage. The results showed that the participants who received negative responses created much more intrinsic and creative works of art than those that had experienced positive responses.

    A simple experiment but what it shows us is that emotions of sadness make us more immersed and detail-oriented and that this has something to do with the relationship between emotion and cognition.

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    It seems that somber moods such as anxiety, self-doubt and depressive states can actually stimulate areas of the brain that control attention, analytical thinking and abstract ideas and thoughts. Frustration and anger can fuel creative tendencies and ideas as it’s our brain’s way of dealing with these emotions.

    How To Turn Sadness Into Creativity

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      Negative emotions are common and can be destructive if not dealt with in the right way. The idea is not to eliminate these emotions completely but to minimise the influence they have over us. Rather than forcing ourselves to get rid of them, we should embrace negative emotions and use them as a way to be more productive.

      If you find yourself feeling sad, frustrated or angry, instead of stewing in those emotions and doing something passive such as watching TV or surfing the internet, you are much better off engaging in writing, art or exercise. With this in mind, here are some important elements to consider when channelling your negative emotions in a positive way.

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      1. Identify Your Negative Emotions

      This is the crucial first step – to acknowledge the negative emotions that you are currently feeling and accept them for what they are. If you feel that they linger or show up regularly then this is when channelling these emotions into more creative means could be beneficial. If they stem from a particular problem then try to frame the problem using questioning techniques to get other perspectives. This can help you dig deeper into the problem and find a solution that you would never have uncovered when in a happier state.

      2. Direct Your Negative Emotions At Problems Not People

      It’s important to use the creative process as a way to direct the negative state away from others. Concentrating on creating will not only be therapeutic and allow potential inspiration to flow, but also channel the sadness, frustration, anxiety or depression away from those around you deflecting unnecessary conflicts.

      3. Don’t Judge Yourself

      When you’re in the creative process it’s really important to not be judgemental towards yourself. When you’re experiencing negativity it is easy to fall into this trap. Creativity is an inspired process that works best when you are free of over-analysing and evaluating your ideas.

      Therapeutic Advantages of Creativity

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        Of course, not only does your negative emotions channel your inspired thoughts and ideas, it can enhance your mood making the creative process intrinsically rewarding. Creative therapy whether you are dancing, writing or painting, can be a powerful therapeutic tool.

        People experiencing sadness may be responding to internalised thoughts and images that are overwhelmingly negative. Getting involved in a creative process can help shift these negative thoughts when undergoing an activity that allows you to use the side of the brain that focuses on fulfilment and enjoyment – although not a means to rid yourself of ongoing negative emotions, it can be used to slowly see and feel a different set of emotions altogether. Recent studies have shown that immersing yourself in a creative activity results in raising the levels of dopamine as well as the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

        Ways You Can Get Creative

        There are so many ways you can channel your anger, sadness, frustration, depression and anxiety into something creative. It’s important to find something that you enjoy doing and not force it – find something that comes naturally to you. Here are a few ways on how to turn sadness into creativity.

        • Writing – Writing can be used in many forms; from putting your negative emotions down onto paper or writing a story. The act of writing can not only clear your head but doing this while you’re experiencing sadness can give you extra inspiration and insight especially when you need to get ideas for a particular project. You could even start a blog or that novel you’ve always wanted to write.
        • Dancing – Expressing yourself through dance is a great way to get creative. Music and moving around will help with your creative mind and release endorphins.
        • Painting and Drawing – Sit down to paint or draw. Use lots of colours and textures and see where it takes you. Remember you’re not there to judge it – just let the creativity flow and see the results.
        • Creating and Building – Designing and building something needs analytical skills and focus – something you have a lot more of when you’re in a state of sadness.
        • Cooking – Cooking can be overlooked as a creative process and creating dishes can help turn sadness into creativity. Why not try making something you’ve never tried before? Design your own recipe and just see what you end up creating or challenge yourself with only a few ingredients. It could just be the best meal you’ve ever made.
        • Playing an Musical Instrument – Creating music to has always been a famed way of focusing negative feelings to create masterpieces. Some of the best songs and lyrics have come out of emotional turmoil – if you have a talent for playing a musical instrument or have always wanted to try then attempting this when in a negative state may produce something amazing.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pixabay.com

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        Jenny Marchal

        A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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