Can You Prove the Art of Happiness?
Yes — you can. If anyone can be an artist, then anyone can be happy.
And yes — you are an artist, too.
How can art make you happy if you’re not good at art? And what does art solve, anyway?
Creativity: The Art of Happy
Art and creativity cures a problem that we all share at times — boredom. I’m not just talking about commercial breaks, a meeting at work that never ends, or traffic-light-kind-of-boredom. Creativity is a mind-set, a way of seeing the world. Creativity puts the magic back in life, so not only are we never bored, we are constantly inspired, present, empowered, and — dare I say it — happy.
I’m going to assign you an “art project”. But don’t be scared. The gluesticks and crayons are only required if you want them to be. This project teaches you how to see.
Let me explain with a little story about my younger self…
As a kid, I always used to complain to my older brother, “I’m bored!” Even when I was little, I was always darting about from activity to activity. My mind was racing and I was antsy with ideas.
His response was always, “Why are you bored?”
I didn’t know.
Then I’ll never forgot what he got me as a birthday present that year. His card was a simple little hand written post-it note that said,
“This is so you’ll never be bored again.”
I opened it, hoping it was some kind of toy or exciting little gadget. But it was just a soft-cover activity book for me to fill out. I had that natural let-down when you get your hopes up and really just get…a book.
No! Not a book!
But then I looked at the cover and it said “Things I Can Be Happy About.” It was a workbook for me to fill in. It was filled with a bunch of blank, numbered lines, broken up into categories like “Outside”, “School”, “Friends”, “Activities” etc. I don’t think I ever filled it out, but I got the idea.
The no-fail cure for boredom…
My brother was trying to teach me my first lesson in gratitude. If you realize what you can be happy about, it’s hard to ever get “bored.” Instead of getting “bored”, he wanted me to get “appreciative.”
A lot of times when we’re bored, we’re just unhappy. And it might just take too much energy to think about what we should be happy about. So I have a little exercise I like to do. I also think it’s a great idea to try with kids, who get tend to tire of things quickly, or might not always remember how much there is to be happy about.
And then on the other end, sometimes kids are the ones who remind us to be happy about the simple things. Kids can be miniature wise-adults, and grown-ups can have the fearless abandon of a child. That’s how we all balance each other out.
In my TEDx Talks, I talked about how creativity saved my life….
But it also made me extremely happy.
So with that in mind, this is my exercise for kids, adults, and the kid-adult in all of us.
Today I invite you to see things differently. All it takes is a little mind-bending. We’re never too old to create fantasies. These are some out-of-the-box ways to view any ordinary, boring moment in life and bring it to a completely new dimension.
When we elevate the everyday, we can’t get bored. We’re struck by every laughing tree, every popping color, every breath of sunrise.
And even better, that whimsical fascination with the world around us might even inspire us to create…and with a project to do or a idea in our heads — how the heck can we get bored???
These are some ideas to view the world differently. Try each one on for size, then share it with someone else!
How to use creativity as a mindset:
1.) View the world as an artist studying a scene to paint a picture from, like everything is made of a different fabric
2.) Imagine every object is actually alive and talking to you! what would it say?
3.) Spot the biggest risk you could do in that specific moment!
4.) Do something totally spontaneous right there, don’t plan anything
5.) Pretend like you are in an adventure movie, fleeing from a monster, but trying to keep your calm composure to the outside world.
6.) Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry
7.) How is what I am seeing before me a microcosm of the whole?
8.) How am I like the objects I see before me?
9.) See the human face in everything — does that tree trunk remind you of a friend’s face?
10.) Be curious: ask childlike questions about the world around you like what makes the sky blue or the clouds look like that?
11.) Be a poet and describe the world around you in haikus!
12.) Take a walk and only make left turns — a lot of them!
13.) View everything solid as liquid and everything liquid as solid. How does it feel to walk on liquid grass?
14.) Put a word to every sound you hear — every gust of wind or squish in the dirt
15.) Imagine the world is a giant gingerbread house and everything is edible — is that eggplant on the roof shingles?
I could go on and on with ideas, but go ahead, create some of your own! Do it just for the sake of adding a spark to your day.
Share it with a friend to give them a reason not to ever be bored — I’m sure they’ll fire back with 15 of their own ideas!
And…if it comes naturally…see if it gives you an idea that inspires you enough to create — anything! Art, music, an idea, a conversation, or a moment — every moment is a chance to create something new.
That’s the greatest part about being alive. We have as many blank canvases as we see before us.
It’s really the ability to give back, and to have my work serve as a lens, a mirror, a window that others can look through, or look into, and see themselves or whatever they need to see at that moment. To feel whatever they need to feel. That’s how I connect with my world — that is my aliveness. As a member of this human race, it’s how I can contribute. Isn’t all we ever want to make a mark on the world? Cause a ripple, maybe even a chain reaction?
Art empowers me with the ability to create a ripple of happiness. As a human who can make “art”, I know that I have the power to make this happen every moment, with even the smallest of gestures. Art is how we tell our stories.
A random act of kindness, a tender word, a brush stroke — whatever works. How will you make your mark on the world?
Start with a scribble…
Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-to-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for Huffington Post, speaker for TEDx and RAINN, health advocate, survivor, award-winning actress, and playwright. As the creator of “Gutless & Grateful,” her BroadwayWorld-nominated one-woman autobiographical musical, she’s toured theatres nationwide, along with a program combining mental health advocacy, sexual assault awareness and Broadway Theatre for college campuses and international conferences. To celebrate her own “beautiful detour”, Amy created the #LoveMyDetour campaign, to help others cope in the face of unexpected events. “Detourism” is also the subject of her TEDx and upcoming book, My Beautiful Detour, available December 2017. She’s contributed to over 70 notable online and print publications, and her story has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, CBS, Cosmopolitan, among others. Learn about her art, music, theatre, advocacy, book, and inspiring story at amyoes.com, or “tweet me at @amyoes!”