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How creativity has improved my mental health

I started dabbling in lettering nearly a decade ago. I had just graduated from college, got engaged and started my first full-time job all in the same week (phew!). I was knee-deep in planning our wedding and Pinterest was in ITS PRIME (to the point where pinning was a day-long weekend activity). Pinterest held a good amount of inspiration for hand lettering, but not many resources for learning at the time, so I wanted to teach myself.

I have always had some anxiety; it runs in my family. But I remember feeling more anxious more regularly when starting my first full-time job. There are certain “triggers” for stress and anxiety that we each have as individuals. They are personal and unique to us. Even in a positive work environment, I found that a lot of my “anxiety triggers” happened in the workplace. My day job also wasn’t particularly creative, and I craved that outlet in my life. Around the time I started my full-time job and moved into my first solo apartment, was also when I started teaching myself hand lettering. In the evenings and on weekends, I would use the $10 card table in the corner of my tiny living room to practice my lettering projects. I started with a white gelly roll pen (remember those?) on colored paper. I remember being so proud and excited about a little “honeymoon fund” gift tag I tied to a vase to put our change in. This little project brought me joy each time I looked at it. I was onto something “feel good.” It makes perfect sense, because the studies agree that creativity has numerous health benefits.

Lettering soon became something I would look forward to. I would intentionally make time to create, just for me and just for fun. Creative outlets look different for everyone. For some it could be baking, illustrating, organizing, playing an instrument, painting, sewing, knitting, crochet. Whatever it is for you, lean into that! But also don’t be afraid to try new things. This year I’ve dabbled a bit with acrylic painting, and I’m terrible but it feels good. When I’m using my hands in a way that keeps me busy and also feels good, it’s something my brain remembers and makes a muscle memory of. I try to make a consistent effort go back to those things that feel good, and create without an agenda.

I still have anxiety and I still experience occasional panic attacks, but they are fewer and far between when I make room for creativity. I don’t want to give you the impression that creativity is quick fix. For me, it’s a combination of counseling, medication when I need it and creativity that has helped me the most. When I am creating regularly, and creating with others, my anxiety does lessen. This was partly why I created the Lauren Heim Lettering Club, a monthly lettering experience, to deliver that feeling of creativity and self-care to others. (PS, #laurenheimletteringclub enrollment will open soon December and your membership will start in January, so mark your Christmas lists!)

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1 COMMENT

  • Mary Jean Billinsgely

    Thank you for sharing your insights about creativity, Lauren. I also have had challenges in my life and believe counseling and medication with guidance have made my life so much fuller. I have found that when I am doing something creative like cooking, I relax and listen to music at the same time. It feels so good. The thing is, that’s if I “choose ” to cook, bake, etc. If I am expected to do it, it doesn’t feel as good! The Lettering Club you created has been helpful to me because it is a dedicated time for me to focus on lettering in a friendly atmosphere. You are a warm, inviting teacher who is knowledgeable and patient. Your style is a great match for my learning style! My mother gave me a calligraphy kit when I was in high school. She encouraged me and recognized that I was naturally inclined to do it well. When I make the time to practice my lettering and try new projects like we do in this club, I think of my Mom and how she knew the value of creativity in our lives. I laugh at myself as I learn and know that she is smiling with me.

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