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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 July 20, 2021

        How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

        How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

        You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

        Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

        Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

        Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

        1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

        According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

        “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

        Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

        Warming up

        If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

        If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

        Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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        1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
        2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
        3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

        Stay hydrated

        Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

        To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

        Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

        Meditate

        Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

        Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

        Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

        Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

        2. Focus on your goal

        One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

        Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

        Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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        Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

        If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

        3. Convert negativity to positivity

        There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

        ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

        It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

        Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

        Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

        Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

        4. Understand your content

        Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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        However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

        “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

        Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

        Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

        One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

        5. Practice makes perfect

        Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

        In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

        Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

        6. Be authentic

        There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

        Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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        Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

        To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

        With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

        Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

        7. Post speech evaluation

        Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

        Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

        We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

        You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

        Improve your next speech

        As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

        Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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        • How did I do?
        • Are there any areas for improvement?
        • Did I sound or look stressed?
        • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
        • Was I saying “um” too often?
        • How was the flow of the speech?

        Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

        If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

        Reference

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