Doro Bush Koch & Tricia Reilly Koch
Anything that keeps us curious keeps us young. Whenever we arrange things in a way that strikes us as beautiful or interesting, we are being creative. Making space for creativity keeps our minds active and better able to consider possibilities and combinations that make life interesting!
Many people think of creativity as exclusively in the domain of the arts: writing, music, performance, visual art. We love to explore our creativity in other ways, too. One place is in the kitchen. When we first started on our wellness journeys, we looked for ways to creatively crowd in healthy ingredients and crowd out unhealthy ingredients, for ourselves and for our young children.
Now that our kids are grown and we know more about the benefits of herbs and spices and have become familiar with vegetables we hadn’t even heard of in our 20s, we both love trying out new combinations of flavors. It’s fun to play with ingredients, adding something new to a tried and true recipe or combining two dishes from different cuisines and enjoying how they complement one another.
Another place we express our creativity is in the garden. We’ve found ways to mix in edibles with greenery. We’re also enjoying experimenting with color and texture and learning about incorporating more sustainable landscaping techniques.
A creative spirit helps us stay open to new possibilities and inspires us to challenge ourselves. Children don’t need to be taught to be creative. They simply delight in making up their own ways to do things! If we can tap into this childlike spirit — throwing off what we’ve learned and setting out to make new discoveries — we will have a richer and possibly even longer life.
Another benefit to creative pursuits is that they offer some of the benefits of mindfulness exercises. When you are fully immersed in a creative act, you are present in the moment. Sitting meditation can reduce stress and sharpen the mind, but it is not for everyone. Some people are more able to tune out the world and get grounded by walking meditation and by doing things like writing, drawing or making music.
Doro’s brother, former president George W. Bush, finds his mindfulness practice with his paintbrush and a canvas. He says that three hours in the studio feels like five minutes because he’s so fully in the flow of creativity. It isn’t necessary to wait for inspiration to strike in order to cultivate a creative practice. Mary Oliver talks in her book A Poetry Handbook about showing up each day with patience, attentiveness and trust. In her essay “Of Power and Time,” a musing on the creative life, she says that creative work requires loyalty and the “the work itself is the adventure.” If we set the intention to explore and be curious, anything is possible.
Joy can be found even in seemingly small or even silly creative pursuits. Bullet journaling has users adorn their planners, to create decorations and illustrations around their daily activities. The use of color alone can shift our mindset. Doro’s mother, Barbara Bush, loved Keds. She had multiple pairs and would frequently wear two sneakers of different styles: two different colors, or one solid and the other patterned.
Anything that takes us out of our routine activates our brain in novel ways, so we see life as a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Pursue any activity with a spirit of play, and you’re going to have fun!
Getting outdoors in nature is a great way to stoke your creativity. Next time you go for a walk, try one of these strategies:
→ Look in a different direction than is your usual habit:
Up: searching for birds in the trees or on wires, looking for shapes in the clouds
Down: noticing all the greenery in the cracks of the sidewalk, insects, pollen and leaves
Sideways: investigate houses and imagine fictional stories about their past, present or future
→ Make a mental list (or an actual list!) of all the different colors you see and sounds you hear. Be as specific as your vocabulary allows!
Bonus activity: When you get back home, try writing a poem or a short story using some of these words
→ Look for five items of different shapes and textures (pinecone, blossom, rock, etc) to place on your table as a centerpiece
→ Pick up three sets of several items of similar shape/ size (pebbles, leaves, twigs) and arrange them in a pattern to make a nature mandala
Growing Bolder contributors Doro Bush Koch and Tricia Reilly Koch are sisters-in-law who founded the wellness company BB&R, Bright, Bold and Real over a decade and a half ago with a very clear goal: to share with others what they’ve learned about mindfulness and holistic living with the intention that everyone begin to live their best life. Learn more about their retreats, workshops, courses and popular Health Gig podcast at bbrconsulting.us.