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Five Steps to a Do-It-Yourself Cure For Happiness

Posted on February 7, 2014 by Rachel Wold

Did you know that having a creative outlet is essential to your wellness as a human being? 


On February 3, Drs. Carrie and Alton Barron, a psychiatrist and orthopedic surgeon, respectively, shared why creative hand-focused activity is a crucial part of happiness. In their book, The Creativity Cure: How To Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands, the Barrons share research that shows that creative expression reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Creative activities like woodworking, scrapbooking, pottery, cooking or playing the piano allow the mind to focus and feel rewarded for creating something beautiful.  

Creative activity is by no means the only ingredient necessary for a happy life. However, as the Barrons discussed on the radio show and in their book, creativity can significantly increase your happiness and feelings of wellbeing. 

The Creativity Cure is a straightforward five-step process:

1. Insight

Carrie recommends freestyle writing for this step, which is designed to give you a pathway into your inner life and to increase self-knowledge.

2. Movement

Physical activity helps keep the brain sharp and open to creative thoughts.

3. Mind Rest

In a technology-saturated world, it’s rare for our minds to have a moment without stimulation, let alone a good chunk of nonfocused time. The Drs Barron shared that both directed and undirected attention are good for the mind. You can combine steps 2 and 3 by practicing walking meditation or simply by allowing for free-floating thoughts as you do some other fairly easy physical activity such as sweeping or washing the dishes. 

4. Using Your Own Two Hands

It turns out that your brain wants you to use your hands. As we learned from Alton, 60% of the higher cortical activity and brain surface area is related to the use of our hands. Working with your hands stimulates the largest portion of your brain and fulfills something Dr. Barron calls “anatomical intent”- using your body the way it was intended to based on our physiology. This step is key.

5. Mind Shift

When the first 4 steps have been completed successfully in a creative endeavor, a mind shift happens. This will not be experienced as a permanent state of idyllic happiness, but rather as a series of deeply satisfying moments of complete engagement and focus, also known as flow. 

The Drs. Barron have an important message that will make you reconsider how you spend your time and what activities make you truly happy. Give it a try and let us know the results! To listen to their full conversation with Host Kate Ebner, click here. For the iTunes podcast, click here.