Every so often, we like to address the ways that creativity and well-being intersect, and it seems appropriate to do so now as we come to the end of a very difficult and stressful year. In a recent seminar on Buddhist philosophy, neuroscientist Richard Davidson spoke about four pillars of well-being—awareness, connection, insight, and purpose—all of which are practiced every day in the studios of artists as part of the creative process. Today we’ll take a closer look at these ideas and consider how an art practice enhances a positive state of mind during stressful times.
Richard Davidson regards well-being as a skill that can be learned, and he has shown in various studies that bringing certain mental approaches into people's lives creates positive changes in their brains, due to the quality of neuroplasticity. The first of these, awareness, is an imoportant one to us as artists. It's rucial to our creative practice in order to be in tune with our work and it can even be practiced while doing mundane studio chores. Developing the ability to be in the moment, to move past feelings of impatience or frustration, and to engage fully in your process is a wonderful way to develop this aspect of well-being.
Connection, the second of Davidson's pillars, emphasizes our need for interactions with other artists and also the function of our work as communication. Insight, the third pillar, comes into play in the many ways we contemplate our work, track our ideas, and find pathways between our thoughts and feelings and what we create. And finally, the fourth pillar--a sense of purpose--is innate to many artists who go to their studios as often as they can, and continually seek to develop their art. Unfortunately, this sense of purpose can dissipate in times of stress. As with the other pillars, it's helpful to constantly cultivate focus and growth, but also to be patient and kind with ourselves when we temporarily lose our way.
Even though we have many opportunities as artists to enhance our own pillars of well-being, we are certainly not immune to negative states of mind such as anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. But we do have a set of tools in our creative practice for improving our states of mind –some of which may take some time, others we already understand and practice every day in the studio. And according to Davidson, doing so can lead to actual changes in our brain structure that help to create a positive outlook.
Website mentioned in today's episode: www.richarddavidson.com
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