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Hobbies and Passions That Spark Creativity and Happiness

Psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith recently wrote a piece in the New York Times about how gardening has served as her “psychological lifeline” in times of crisis. “Gardening grounds us, and gives us something to look forward to,” Stuart-Smith writes. “Gardening is an accessible form of creativity, and allows us to bring something new into the world.” Whether it’s gardening or painting or cooking or something else, carving out time for the hobbies that make us feel like our unique selves — a concept author Eve Rodsky calls “unicorn space” — is crucial for our well-being. Research confirms that engaging in the hobbies we love can rejuvenate us and help us tap into our creativity.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the hobbies that help them tap into their creativity. Which of these will you try?

Painting

“I had so many cathartic moments trying to make sense of my patterns and feelings having grown up in an emotionally toxic household. Many of my breakthroughs happened while painting. Through brushstrokes and blending colors, I found that my brain was processing my experiences. During the ten years between my marriages, I had to give myself permission to heal. All this healing came to me through painting. So, I continue to paint almost daily to bring me the quiet I need to listen to my own heart.”

—Marci Brockmann, podcaster, author, artist, educator, NY

Visiting the farmer’s market

“I love visiting a local farmer’s market and learning from the artisans there. Their passion and dedication to the work is often contagious, and not to mention, the fruits of the labor are delicious! I try to visit one every Saturday, and then use the bounty to cultivate a feast for my family on Sunday. Then, I share photos of the experience, tagging the local businesses who made the burst of creativity possible.”

—Stacy Cassio, CEO, Charlotte, NC

Podcasting

“I really enjoy creating my podcast, ‘Finally Free Podcast’ for my intuitive eating coaching business. I had my own experience suffering from an eating disorder, but it’s always so inspiring and eye-opening to hear other people’s struggles and triumphs with disordered eating and body image. I have so many strong women (and men!) as guests who are vulnerable and give my listeners useful tools to help themselves recover as well. The postcast has allowed me to flex my interview muscle and connect with people I would never normally have an opportunity to speak with on such a raw and human level.”

—Alana Van Der Sluys, certified intuitive eating counselor, NJ

paddle boarding

“I feel so creative when I am paddle boarding and reflecting on the water. Being in the outdoors and focused on admiring nature will lead me to think about new ways of doing things. When I go out with friends, we have very productive ‘paddle meetings’ and come up with new ideas. Changing your frame is a great way to think differently.

—Isabelle Bart, impact entrepreneur, Orange County, CA

Reading art books

“I love reading art books (not on a Kindle or device) because they often reference new ideas or artists I hadn’t heard about before. I explore these new perspectives and artists, and plan trips around seeing the art. For example, I read about Hilma af Klint and planned an entire trip around her exhibit ‘Paintings For The Future’ at the Guggenheim Museum.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and life coach, Royal Oak, MI

Quality time with our kids

“I love spending time with other people who spark my creativity — especially my children. Children and young people are naturally good at challenging my ways of thinking and sparking my creativity, and they tend to do it in a fun and engaging way. In some respects, they bring out the child in me, always curious and keen to experiment.”

—Bianca Riemer, leadership coach, London, UK

singing

“I sing when I need a boost of creativity. I even have a few karaoke CDs that I sing along with. Singing has been shown to release endorphins—feel-good hormones connected to pleasure. Singing has also been shown to release cortisol, another hormone that helps the body respond to stress. The bottom line is singing is a natural antidepressant. Try it, and don’t be shy! Let the neighbors hear you. Perhaps let them join you!”

—Rudy Chavarria Jr, founder, college web mentor, Walnut, CA

morning walks

“My morning walks often spark creative ideas. I find being out in nature early in the morning, without distraction, brings a clarity of focus and some of my best ideas emerge then. Motion creates emotion. If we are moving our bodies forward the mind starts thinking about future goals. It then focuses on strategies, actions and tactics to fulfill these goals and we get excited about the possibilities.”

—Candice Tomlinson, coach and hypnotherapist, Sydney, Australia

kayaking

“I am fortunate to live close to a river and discovered kayaking a few years ago. I love paddling on the river and watching a vast array of birdlife on the water or in the trees along the banks, including multiple nests with chicks. There is nothing like paddling for me to feel a sense of calmness. I often find solutions to problems I have, or my most creative ideas come to me instantaneously as I am churning through the water and appreciating the surrounding serenity.”

—Donna West, coastal facilities manager, Perth, Australia

Teaching Sunday school

“This year I took on a passion project of being a first grade Sunday school teacher! It all started because my son hated going to Sunday school. I wrote a lengthy email complaining about how boring the teachers are and made some suggestions to make it more fun for the kids. They replied with, ‘That sounds great, want a job?’ So naturally, I said yes! I make sure to incorporate each week’s lesson with a fun video, cool movements that I learned through my kids yoga certification, and cute arts and crafts projects. This has allowed me to get creative on so many levels.”

—Jillian Potashnick, fitness instructor, Las Vegas, NV

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