When I was in the hospital, one of the activities they provided for patients was art therapy. I sat in a room, silent and bewildered as I was, and methodically glued tiny pieces of glass mosaic tiles on a black wrought iron trivet frame. I called it my Crazy Trivet ever after, and it was remarkable only because it was an incredibly soothing experience at the time, putting all those tiny pieces together, choosing colors, losing myself inside the activity.
I know of a woman who uses her downtimes to produce photography, a thing she never has time for otherwise but which has been a balm to her during darkness. Like art therapy, the act of focusing on her picture taking uplifts her from the inside out and lifts her depression.
As a treatment for depression, the benefits are obvious. Depressed brains need the boost of dopamine. But I’ve also found art to be helpful in focusing my mania. A wave of calm washes over me, not unlike my experience making the trivet in the hospital.
Research tells us that even when we observe something beautiful – a painting, a piece of music, a bird – the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, a reaction that is only enhanced by taking the event from viewing to doing. Working with our hands to produce a thing of beauty tickles our pleasure center. This is no small thing. In brain scans, looking at art is as stimulating to the brain as being in love! That is powerful stuff! And you can give this feeling to yourself, by indulging in a bit of personal creativity.
In other words, creating happiness is literally in your very own hands.