This is the sixth in our special “12 Days of Giving” series running for the holiday season. It’s a little different from what you might think of as traditional presents or giving. We aren’t really talking about stuff you buy or a gift list. Rather, on these 12 days, we will be talking about different gifts that you can give to yourself, or others — those that have a deeper meaning, that can help you live with intention, be happier, be healthier. Soul gifts, you might even call them. Join us on the journey.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to gift people that they will truly enjoy and can get a lot out of. How about something that fosters their creativity? It’s also a great gift to give yourself!
I read an article this week that talked about how important our creative side is — and yes, we all have one, even if you think you don’t have an artistic bone in your body. It’s an intrinsic part of our humanness, and fostering it goes a long way towards improving many other areas of our brain. This story was titled “7 Science-backed reasons you should make art, even if you’re bad at it,” and said that scientific research has shown that our minds seem built to enjoy and analyze art deeply; and that creating it, no matter your skill level, is good for you.
Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood. The story went on to list the ways making art is good for us, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving connections in the brain, combat depression, improve cognitive functions and more.
I have recently made the commitment to doing more physical/tactile art myself, just for my own pleasure. I’m creative already, in fact as a full-time professional writer for a living, it’s what I do all day. But my art has to do with words, and to make it I mostly sit at a computer. I decided to make sure I incorporated more hands-on creativity in my life, for my own personal enhancement: painting, building things (I just finished a bookcase made of industrial pipe and salvaged wood shelves), adult coloring books, origami, just to name a few. I also think that stimulating the other artistic parts of my brain helps fuel creativity in my writing, as well.
So here are a few ideas I came up with for ways you can gift others, or yourself, with creativity:
I love classes of just about any kind. I’ve always loved school and learning. Throughout my life I’ve regularly taken everything from dance and language classes to cooking and hot glass blowing (outside actual traditional college and higher learning). Enrolling yourself in some kind of class, or getting a gift certificate or paying the tuition for someone else, is a magnificent present. Obviously, there are almost limitless things out there to choose from. Jewelry making, art, horseback riding, Spanish lessons, belly dancing, a crafting workshop, etc. The list can go on and on. And you don’t have to physically attend, either. If someone has physical limitations or simply can’t get outside the home to take a class, check out these classes from edX, a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and a huge list of other colleges and universities. It offers free classes from its partners online. Udemy also has a huge selection of online classes on every topic imaginable, and the vast majority are extremely affordable (i.e. under $20).
How long has it been since you’ve been in an art supply store? They are so much fun, and even if you don’t know much about any of the products or what they do, it’s a great place to explore and get the creative juices flowing. Most art supply stores carry both serious, professional-grade supplies as well as more amateur, hobbyist kits. I have done all kinds of fun little projects with stuff I’ve gotten at art stores, from making jewelry and origami to painting wine glasses. Give it a shot!
Offer to teach something
If you have any particular creative skills, offer to teach them to someone you care about who might be interested. This makes a great gift for that person, it’s sparks your own creative juices, and it’s a great way to spend time and bond with a friend or family member. This isn’t necessarily relegated to artistic endeavors — maybe you know html or Photoshop?
Have a dress-up party or build a fort
Remember doing this as a kid? Remember how fun it was? There’s really nothing that gets your imagination going quite like experiencing it as a child, or with a child. If you have kids in your life, gather a bunch of stuff together (clothes, hats, kid-friendly makeup or face paint, props) and have fun creating different characters. You can even make it your own pop-up photo booth by snapping silly pictures of your crazy creations. Or build an elaborate fort or tent. In my opinion, you don’t even have to do these things with children. I mean, you see how excited we adults get at Halloween, right? I don’t think we ever outgrow the fun of playing dress-up.
There’s nothing really that sparks the imagination like a great story. Losing yourself in a great book is a fantastic way to keep the creativity center in your brain fired up. So if you find that you haven’t picked up a book in a while — especially something “escapist” like a juicy novel or a sci-fi/fantasy adventure — carve out some “me time” to read more. Audio books and podcasts are also a great way to fuel the imagination while you’re walking the dog, driving or working out.
Working on puzzles and solving them has documented positive effects on the brain. Our brains produce a chemical known as dopamine that is chiefly responsible for learning and memory. The production of this chemical increases in the brain when it is engaged in solving, say, a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t wait to get started on this awesome one I recently bought, called the Little Feminist. But it’s not just jigsaw puzzles that engage our brains and creativity. Crosswords, sudoku and other logic puzzles have been shown to hold off effects of age and memory loss, particularly things like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Photography and/or scrapbooking
This is a great creative medium, and makes for some pretty special, personal gifts as well. Choose a photograph of a special memory that you and a special someone shared — maybe it was a trip, or just a great photo of you together. Have the photograph printed on something like a canvas, metal or wood block (places like CVS and Walgreens do this very economically and fast). Or, maybe make your own artistic frame to put the picture in for a gift. Scrapbooking or making collages is also a good way to both spark your creative side of the brain as well as relive fond memories.