Home / Tricks of the Trade / Chicken soup for the creative soul

I think we can all agree that this year has been one long trip on the sad train to bummertown.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably dealing with a lot of feelings—as anxiety and depression are on the rise. And because many of us are social distancing (if not completely isolated at home), reaching out to friends, therapists, or family is more difficult than ever.

Stress affects people in different ways. But when you’re in our line of work, all those tense, unhappy feelings can add up to one big creative blockage.

(Ewww. Bad metaphor. Apologies.)

So, what can you do to try to turn that frown upside down? We’ve tried Zoom happy hours, Netflix watch parties, virtual wine tasting, baking sourdough from scratch, virtual book club, and many MANY walks around the block. You probably have, too. So here are a few other therapeutic ideas to try.

 

Bibliotherapy

Sure, there are lots of resources out there to help you find books you’ll like. I’m a bit of a bookworm and I get weekly recos based on my favorite authors and genres from various retailers and book-based communities. It’s great. But why not take it a bit further and seek out a book prescription? (Yes, that’s a thing.) It works like this: You sign up for an online bibliotherapy service, complete a survey, and make an appointment to talk with the bibliotherapists. They make recommendations, you read them, and you discuss—like a one-on-one book club, only better.

Bibliotherapy has been around since the early 20th century—and it centers on using literature to help people deal with psychological and emotional issues. It doesn’t have to be that heavy, though. Sometimes the right literature at the right time can give you some much-needed perspective. For example, we read A Gentleman in Moscow previously for book club about a man on house arrest in a hotel for 30 years. Now I wouldn’t exactly call it a how-to guide, but I’ve definitely been thinking back to how he used routines to create structure in his everyday life—and have applied some of the same techniques in my own quarantine life.

 

Cinema therapy

At this point, it’s very likely that you’ve maxed out on Netflix. But there’s a lot more out there to see beyond Tiger King. And similar to the bibliotherapy examples above, cinema therapy  seeks to connect people with films that help them explore different topics and feelings.

Immersive elements like music, special effects, lighting, and story can create a totally immersive experience—causing you to feel like you’re part of the film, feel empathy or disgust for the characters, and sometimes see your own reflection in the storyline. For it to be official “therapy,” you’d work with a therapist who would select the film and you’d both watch and discuss together to help facilitate your goals. But you can also think of movies as a great platform to start a conversation with others about important but potentially sensitive subjects in a less intimidating way—showing you both new solutions and perspectives on topics you (or other people in your life) may have been too anxious to talk about otherwise.

 

Horticultural therapy

Okay, so what is horticulture? As Dorothy Parker once quipped, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” That’s not the kind of horticulture we’re talking about here.

In short, it’s gardening. But horticultural therapy means a lot more than that—with healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens, and restorative gardens all built by professionals and tended by people as a therapeutic outlet. Now, most of these are big, community-based spaces that you may not be able to access right now. But working with greenery of all kinds—from back yard gardens to houseplants—has been shown to improve moods and decrease depressive thought patterns.

Plus, as it turns out, gardening counts as a workout, according to the American Heart Association. Digging in the dirt, raking, and mowing help you burn calories and build muscle. So you could say this type of therapy is good for your heart and soul.

 

Improving your quality of life and creative joie de vivre with more books, movies, and plants? Sounds like time well spent to me.

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