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This year, I followed the ethos of one of our most recent posts on self-care in January and skipped out on writing goal-based resolutions for the New Year. In place of this widely practiced ritual, I decided to get introspective and simply sit with the messy, unfiltered reflections I had with regards to 2019. The year had its ups but it also had its downs, so it’s fair to say that it was a difficult trip around the sun! In retrospect, I spent much of 2019 trapped in autopilot mode: feeling tired, overwhelmed, and uninspired on a day-to-day basis. I’ve always struggled with the immaterial pressure to meet the expectations of a harmful culture of productivity and work-centric living; burnout is a familiar feeling. Without realizing it, I spent my year left longing for vibrancy, I was longing for the space you’re given as a child to play, be curious, and make mistakes. The stakes have gotten higher with the responsibilities of adulthood but memories of recent times when I felt pure joy still reflect this childlike feeling. There is a glow around my most present moments because they involved the act of creation, whether it was making a surprising connection with a stranger through honest conversation, preparing a home-cooked meal, or creating art for the sake of it—the kind of art that allows you to savour the process regardless of the end result.
Creativity is a generative source of energy that gives us the space to slow down, check in, and realign with our pleasure bodies in a meaningful way. The fact that there are numerous health benefits to falling into a creative flow, such as improved brain function and mental health, is the cherry on top! Getting caught in the stagnancy of shaping life around our work schedules and ever-growing to-do lists can feel alienating but taking time to reset and rediscover the joys of getting our creative juices flowing can bring deep healing, especially in a city as fast-paced as Toronto.
As we collectively shifted into the new year, I could feel myself longing for a return to unadulterated creativity, a lifestyle orbiting around the desire to connect with my surroundings outside of the framework of productivity. If you’re anything like me—a Scorpio with a soft spot for structure—then making these shifts will be a challenge unless you commit and carve out space for it. This space can exist in your journal or it can occupy your physical space. For me, the latter option is most helpful for my wandering mind.
Photo courtesy of Moorea Seal
The first step in a creative reset is boundary-setting. As someone who works remotely on a part-time basis, the lines between my identity and productivity often blur. Although my living space is small and shared, having distinct areas dedicated to my different modes of being exist in my home as an act of self-preservation. Work happens at my desk, rest happens in the comfort of my bed, creation happens in a place that feels safe and disconnected. In the process of cultivating this dedicated space, a creative altar of sorts, don’t be afraid to start small—just as long as you start. One of my favourite thinkers and activists adrienne maree brown writes, “Small is good, small is all.” If you have a spare shelf or an untouched corner in your space, begin here.
My first suggestion is to find an anchor, an object that can serve as a tangible reminder of the intention that you’ve set for this space. I cleared a shelf in my bookcase for this purpose and have placed my journal in the centre space along with whichever book I am reading at the time to remind me of my love of personal storytelling. Beside my books sits one of my favourite scents from Foxhound candles, Black Tea and Spice ($20.00, available in-stores and online). It’s a simple set-up but when I’m sitting down to spend time with myself, the flame and the candle’s unique scent brings me to concentration. My thoughts tend to outrun me so having an unlined notebook, like the beautifully designed Show of Hands sketchbook by Danica Studio ($22.95, available in-stores only at our Leslieville location), where I can illustrate my internal landscapes without feeling confined is crucial for my temperament. However, if you find it difficult to stick to everyday journaling, in a recent post about cultivating gratitude, we suggested the 52 Lists Project ($16.95, in-stores and online) for those of us seeking a bit of guidance to keep the momentum going.
If you have more room to play and want to continue to adorn your space, use this fruitful place to start thinking outside the box. When it comes to decorating with intention, colour psychology is a great place to start. Studies show that certain hues can stimulate creativity and impact our emotions. Deep purples can inspire creativity while the colour white can offer a grounding sense of space, for example.
This creative altar is a meeting place. It is a place where you can arrive to reconnect with your whole self, outside of a workspace and productivity mindset. For me, it’s the simple act of letting my reflections flow through me and allowing them into the world through honesty, intention, and consistent practice.
Photo courtesy of PF Candle Co.
Once you’ve cultivated a creative altar that works, drop into it and find what lights the spark of creativity for you. Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard this countless times but it really is important to eliminate as many distractions as possible and to show up as you are. I’m the kind of person who easily falls into the rabbit hole of having a gazillion tabs open on my laptop and who is frequently cycling between apps on my phone, especially when I am nearing burnout. I am steeped in an environment where distractions are ubiquitous and it is easy to use these tools as placeholders for reality. To combat this behaviour, I need to create feelings of calm in my body to meaningfully be in the moment.
One of my favourite ways to decompress is by enjoying a cup of lemon-ginger tea. The simple act of preparing something warm for myself always brings me comfort. I have a handmade mug, created by a close friend, that I have dedicated to my unwinding time. This is another place to move with intention by finding a mug whose colour inspires movement and imagination. I have currently been loving the soft pastels and gold accents that ceramist Cathy Terepocki uses in her creations ($55, available in-stores only).
Softening your senses and shifting into relaxation mode will make it easier for the juices to flow! I’m a big believer in aromatherapy and my go-to tool is a nice candle but there are so many ways to incorporate sweet, soothing scents into your life! If you’re an early bird, the Good Morning Beautiful aromatherapy spray is the perfect pick-me-up! This face and body mist is comprised of sweet orange, lemon and other 100% pure essential oils that will give you the restorative boost that you need to feel a bit more centred. Made in Vancouver by the company Happy Spritz, a portion of all proceeds goes to benefit animal rescue, so your heart will feel a little lighter after this purchase as well ($28, available in-stores and online).
Much too often, I am on the edge of a headache so I keep my Calm Balm close. Calm Balm, created by the Toronto-based company Leaves of Trees, uses the dreamy combination of lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint to help pacify you into a peaceful state, especially when you find yourself swept up by the day-to-day ($13, available in-stores and online).
At the end of day, you are your own self-care toolkit. Creating the time to be still and take a few deep breaths is another great way to come back to the present moment and enter into your new creative space.
Enjoy the Process
Now that you’re relaxed and comfortable with your creative space, it’s time for play! Be open to venturing to places that may feel unfamiliar at first. Find a hobby that you can engage in without being committed to a fixed outcome. While this is often easier said than done, an important part about reintroducing creativity into your life is that it feels much better when you are open to the process and what there is to learn from it. Here’s a list of possibly unexpected tasks that will allow you to flex that creative muscle:
To create is to connect: Engaging in positive exchanges of energy with the people in our lives that make us feel supported creates the opportunity to learn about the world through different perspectives. We all bring our individuality to the table and it is a growing experience to expand our space and let others in. I find that it is easy to feel isolated due to today’s digital landscape, so any opportunity to commune offline is nourishing for my sense of being. Potluck-style dinners give us the chance to play around with recipes and hear from those we cherish.
Other ways to connect may be to call your mom to ask about one of your favourite childhood recipes, mail a letter to an old friend, or go to a farmer’s market. Go for a long walk with a loved one and ask them meaningful questions about their day. It can be hard to break from the comfort of small talk, but a question as simple as “what brings you joy?” gives us the chance to experience a magical sense of closeness.
Celebrating those who make you feel seen with these kinds of moments gives us a warm feeling and a deep sense of connection.
Take time to colour: Adult colouring books have been called therapeutic, offering catharsis and an opportunity for people to create rather than consume. At Scout, we have a selection of interactive activity books for adults that give reason to disconnect and have unconventional fun. I’ve recently been eyeing the Broad City colouring book ($21.99, available in-stores only). If you’re a fan of the show, this is the perfect choice, as it’s guaranteed to make you laugh and bring you the comfort that comes with creating something.
Explore what’s in the cards: Spirituality is a wide-ranging concept, shaped by many different perspectives. If you’re interested in deepening your intuition and spiritual practices, consider exploring tarot. Tarot cards allow for a deepening of the spiritual connection that you have with yourself, inspiring you to trust the voice within to interpret the meaning of each mystical card in the deck.
Oracle cards are another beginner-friendly activity that puts your senses in the driver’s seat. While tarot decks pull their structure from a vibrant history, oracle cards are free-wheeling in nature and mirror the intentions of the creator. Cultivating your intuition through the cards allows for a rewarding expansion and deepening of the creative self.
Bring a Book
Photo courtesy of HarperCollins
When in doubt, learn from the experts! Here at Scout, we’re so lucky to have a wide selection of books that reflect our personal values, engage with our interests, and tap into experiential knowledge, storytelling, and deep research to break down the importance of injecting our lives with the magic of creativity. These are my top recommendations:
Once described as a quiet revolution in book form, How to Not Always Be Working: A Toolkit for Creativity and Radical Self-Care by Marlee Grace ($21, available at our Leslieville location only) is a healing read for those of us who struggle to create boundaries between our productivity and identity. Marlee Grace uses feelings-forward storytelling to invite readers to engage in a practice of living that allows the self to breathe and be separate from rampant work life.
For insight on a sustainable approach to slowing down, turn to Do Pause: You are not a To Do list by Robert Poynton ($21.50, available in-stores only). Robert Poynton takes readers through the lasting benefits of slowing down to pause while breaking down the dangers of viewing the self as a to-do list.
Creative Alchemy by Marlo Johnson (24.95, available in-stores only) is the perfect guided experience if you’re looking to cultivate new habits to deepen your self-knowledge and rekindle the flame of creativity. This book offers 88 meditations, rituals, and experiments to help you in the process and invites you to be brave, curious, and open-hearted.
Really, creativity effortlessly permeates our everyday lives. It can exist in little ways without us noticing or defining it. It’s in the way we connect to those around us, it’s in the way we connect with nature, and it’s in the way we connect to ourselves. My creative reset was about crafting a place where I could slow down to notice and appreciate these precious bits of everyday life. Remember, you are your own toolkit for this work.
Dancing without fear of judgment, stretching our bodies for relief, or cozying up with a good book from the local library—these are all life-giving examples of what it can look like to fall back into a creative rhythm.
Feature photo credit: Photo courtesy of Little Village