This is a time of year when we can find it challenging to stay positive, energized, and engaged. The holiday season is behind us. The daylight hours are still short. Spring is still many weeks off. Meanwhile, we need to be at our emotional and mental best for our students, our families, and ourselves. This is a time of year when many of us could use a boost.
Fortunately, there are useful tools that can shift our thinking, improve our mood, and put us on a track to feeling better. These mental tools are available to each of us without cost or training. In fact, we already possess them. They involve tapping our creativity, unleashing our imagination, and opening ourselves to inspiration. Let’s examine these mental tools, how we can employ them, and the benefits they can offer.
The first, creativity, is original thinking. We may not think of ourselves as being creative. Yet, each of us have within us the ability to create. Think of creativity as seeking a new perspective, developing a new approach, or finding a unique twist. Creativity can be a different way of thinking about a situation, topic, or object. Even small ideas can be enough to make something common uncommon, or something unremarkable remarkable. Creativity does not have to involve a major breakthrough or world changing idea. The power is in creating. Any recognition by and appreciation of others is a bonus.
The second, imagination, is unrestrained thinking. Imagination opens our thinking in ways that are limitless in potential scope and not constrained by reality. Imagination invites us to consider what could be. We can conjure a narrative, an image, or a place beyond reality. Imagination is permission to dream about what could be without being constrained by social convention, resources, or even the laws of nature.
The third, inspiration, is motivated thinking. Inspiration is awakened energy. Inspiration can give us the drive to create and create the urge to imagine. Inspiration can come from within us as we reflect on an important purpose, a compelling need, or possible contribution. Inspiration can also be stimulated externally through reading about, listening to, or observing inspirational thoughts and actions. When we open ourselves to inspiration, we invite purpose and ready our emotions for engagement. Inspiration can come from a new idea or a compelling purpose and lead us to set a worthy goal. Inspiration can give us a new awareness of possibilities.
While each of these thinking tools are unique, they share some powerful, common benefits. All three can improve our mental and emotional health. They can decrease stress. Creativity, imagination, and inspiration can improve our mood and build psychological resilience. They offer a sense of contribution, control, and ownership. They build neurons in our brain that can keep our nervous system healthy and our memory sharp. Creativity, imagination, and inspiration have also been shown to prevent dementia later in life.
When we share our creativity, imagination, and inspiration with others, they can improve our social life. They can help us to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. They can make us more curious and leave us feeling more optimistic.
The benefits of creativity, imagination, and inspiration are not necessarily dependent on direct engagement. We can access much of their power vicariously. Attending a concert, visiting an art museum, or reading a story can still give us access to many of these benefits.
What is important is that we give ourselves permission to engage in creative thinking and tasks, use our imagination, and be inspired. Only when we interrupt old patterns and open ourselves to possibilities can we break out of unhelpful cycles of thought and create new paths. Of course, there is no better time to start than now.