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Join Srinika at this special workshop where she will be discussing the health benefits of art and music for emotional and physical health – from stress relief to improved brain function. With guest star Elena Rokas, renowned painter, visual artist, and Clinical Nutrition Consultant. Stay tuned for a wealth of creative healing knowledge!

Health Benefits of Creativity

Srinika Narayan:                Hi, I’m Srinika Narayan of Srinika Healing and Nutrition. I’m an acupuncturist and nutritional analyst and I’m joined her today for our talk on the health benefits of creativity by my friend and colleague Elena Rokas.

Elena Rokas:                         Yes, well I am an artist and my background is in fine art, photography, and I’m currently finishing my Masters degree is Visual Design. Before that I studied functional nutrition and I’ve been working as a nutrition consultant for several years.

Srinika Narayan:                Great, thank you for being here.

Elena Rokas:                         Yeah, thank you.

Srinika Narayan:                I became interested in the subject of the health benefits, the physical health benefits of creativity just because I was thinking a few weeks ago whoa, I feel so good when I cook new dishes and just how good it feels to just engage all my senses with flavors and colors and tastes and textures, and I was just noticing how relaxed I felt while cooking and relaxed I feel after cooking. I thought there must be some kind of health benefit to this, you know, that I don’t know, that’s being researched out there. That’s why I want to kind of take a look at this issue and I figured okay, I’ll invite you because Elena’s an artist and she must have these similar feelings too and know a little bit more about the subject so yeah, what are your thoughts?

Elena Rokas:                         Well definitely there is a sense of relaxation when you focus on a creative activity for a prolonged period of time and I’ve found that when I paint or sketch, especially doodling, when there’s less pressure to be perfect, that I feel much more calm and I get into a certain flow that helps me to just think more clearly.

Srinika Narayan:                Great, yeah. I mean I definitely notice the effect certainly number one, on the nervous system. It seems that most creative activities seem to kind of reintegrate things in the brain or maybe the left hemisphere and right hemisphere or actually engage one area of the brain, the right hemisphere, that we don’t use … Most of us don’t use quite so often in our daily lives. In relaxing the nervous system, certainly it brings out the parasympathetic nervous system and that’s the part of the nervous system that tells the rest of the body hey, it’s safe to relax and it’s safe to go into healing mode. Without the parasympathetic nervous system, our bodies would be kind of on alert and on stress mode and don’t take the time to heal things because it’s trying to fend off things or fend off stress basically. Definitely from a brain perspective and nervous system perspective, I have noticed creativity does play a big part in that.

Elena Rokas:                         I would say that creative activities are even like a kind of yoga for your brain and for me putting colors and textures onto canvas is a way to release my emotions in a way that I can see them and it helps to let go of anxiety or fears or even good things. It’s good to be able to let go and see that represented, and definitely the feeling of calm.

Srinika Narayan:                For sure. Well, you know I’ve noticed that feeling, you notice it with colors, I notice it with sounds and I really enjoy singing and I have noticed when I sing it definitely releases pent up emotions and I can feel it in my body, the resonance of these notes just releasing things in my body, and emotions and physical health are very related. In Chinese medicine, there’s a certain emotion for each organ and if that emotion is kind of too much or out of balance, it can affect that organ.

Srinika Narayan:                For instance, anger strongly affects the liver, so just being able to release some of that can really take a look of pressure off of the liver. Fear affects the kidneys and so kind of releasing that can take a burden off the kidneys. Definitely it’s very helpful to be able to release emotions on an organ level. I’ve also noticed with harmonies, it’s like a few notes at once, that really amps things up in terms of resonance and in terms of feeling like stuck stuff is just kind of moving out of the body.

Elena Rokas:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative), it feels good.

Srinika Narayan:                It feels good, yeah, yeah.

Elena Rokas:                         Absolutely. Not only that but I have read studies that show how sound can really impact us at a cellular level. For example, a French acupuncturist in the 80s experimented with different instruments and human voice and he found that the human voice actually was able to destroy cancerous cells and to energize healthy cells, and that’s incredible.

Srinika Narayan:                Yeah, and we’ve seen an explosion of a lot of sound healing kind of workshops, so they’re onto something there with the resonance of certain sounds and the resonance within our own body and our own cells. What do you think of the benefits of doing creative things in a social context, such as a knitting circle or an arts and crafts circle?

Elena Rokas:                         Well, people who create with others actually are more likely to have wider social networks and feel a greater sense of purpose and belonging and not only that, but knitting in a group increases feelings of calm and happiness and also people have reported that they have better brain function when they knit with others.

Srinika Narayan:                How about people just playing board games, for instance, that use their creative skills?

Elena Rokas:                         Well yes, I mean creativity is really just a form of play so do incorporate creative play in social interactions, like playing board games like Cranium and Telestrations, Pictionary, those are all games that will use words to spur on creative actions like drawing or sculpting.

Srinika Narayan:                Great, yeah, yeah, I can see those for sure benefiting the brain, but I have heard about knitting, that it is very … There’s something about it that is very relaxing. I really don’t knit but I’ve heard very good things about it. It improves cognitive function so interesting. There’s actually some research out there about it. You know what I’ve found is I like to do journaling and journaling especially during times of stress I’ve noticed, kind of brings my nervous system back into a sense of calm.

Srinika Narayan:                Something about getting words out onto paper is very helpful and kind of getting certain … How do you call it? Stream of consciousness where you’re just writing things down that come into the brain and it seems like that kind of gets out certain unconscious beliefs or feelings that have been there and then to get it out onto paper kind of brings them to light. So many of these unconscious beliefs are in fact what’s behind some of our physical illnesses, so just getting them out, bringing them to light, can be really helpful just in tackling physical illnesses from that kind of mind/body perspective.

Elena Rokas:                         Yes, absolutely and researchers have also found that writing and journaling regularly can definitely alleviate depression, anxiety, and stress.

Srinika Narayan:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elena Rokas:                         It also mimics meditation because it tunes out distractions and allows you to focus just on this flow of the words streaming out of your mind.

Srinika Narayan:                Yeah, great.

Elena Rokas:                         Which is also very valuable.

Srinika Narayan:                Okay, yeah. Great. One thing, sometimes when I think of oh, I should be creative, you know I get caught up in oh, it’s going to take time, take time out of my day but then I also think okay, does it have to? Maybe I don’t have time today but maybe I can think of a fun outfit to wear and that itself is a creative act. Just playing around with colors and what you wear for the day is super fun and you know there’s actually research out there that shows that colors can have an effect on moods, so wearing orange can actually make people more energized and more productive during the day or wearing blues can be very calming and soothe anxiety. They say purple is supposed to be about intuition so I wore purple today, but yeah, just kind of you can play around with it yourself and see what you think.

Elena Rokas:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah I love that because it brings a sense of play to your day without much effort.

Srinika Narayan:                Right.

Elena Rokas:                         Which also brings me … I want to mention that you don’t have to produce anything to actually benefit from creativity, just watching or going to a museum or watching a play or a dance performance is enough to relieve psychological stress. In fact, dance performances researchers have found that our mirror neurons are triggered and those neurons can’t differentiate between actions that others are doing and what’s actually happening inside, so your mind essentially thinks that your nervous system is doing this and so the dance can have a very therapeutic effect on you as an observer.

Srinika Narayan:                Wow, fascinating.

Elena Rokas:                         Yeah.

Srinika Narayan:                Yeah, yeah, very interesting.

Elena Rokas:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Srinika Narayan:                Well, great. Thank you so much for being here. If you haven’t seen the Elena’s paintings, you should really check them out, they’re really fantastic and her website is ElenaRokas.com and of course you can see my website at SrinikaHealing.com. Thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you.

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