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Depression and Creativity

Van Gogh, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens. All of these people have used their creativity to reimagine something in a new light, to instigate change and create master works. All of these people, also experienced varying degrees of depression.

Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, and the list continues. It’s devastatingly too common that so many thought leaders of our generation experience depression. In effect Psychological studies indigate that depression and creativity are linked. However, we’ve seen over and over again how devastating it can be. When people spiral for too long, they fall to such lows thay they break down or commit suicide. We’ve lost a lot of great minds, and excellent ideas because of the way we handle depression, and I’m writing this post to suggest an alternative, a way to be creative without letting yourself break down.

First, let’s set scopes on Depression. I identify it as a sense of hopelessness and existential dread, that is prolonged for an unnatural period of time. The unnatural period of time is the literal killer. It’s the spiraling into more and more severe dread, until it gets impossible to get out. If it wasn’t for the spiraling effect, depression would be a completely healthy experience everyone would grow from. One facet of it, “Rumination” is particularily helpful for creativity. Rumination is defined as the “compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.” For example, when you ask a girl out and say something stupid, you “ruminate” for the next hour about how stupid what you said was. This introspection to identify mistakes, truly understand yourself and ponder on life can be the instigator to some great ideas.

But, what kills is the spiraling effect. A sense of hopelessness piled up ontop of more hopelessness. An insight I’ve had on this is that it usually happens when there are multiple things wrong. Instead of just ruminating over one thing, people are lonely, they don’t eat healthy, exercise, their place is dirty. In short their life is more supporting of depression.

This was the case with me. I had a lot of things going right, but I had a horrible diet, I didn’t work out enough, I didn’t meet new people, so when a small roadblock showed up, it was hard to bounce back. Each depression lead to some creative insights for my business and life, but I could see where the trend was headed.

Almost all creativity in life is basically negated if you can’t get out of depression. It only has to happen once, than it’s kind of over. But, I don’t want to feel normal all the time. I want to be happy, and I want to be sad. I want to reflect and be creative.

That’s when it hit me. It was a pretty simple thought, but it was big for me. I started to change the environment around me. I wanted to allow myself to ruminate and feel depressed, but I wanted everything around me to dispell the other factor of depression.

I started regulating my sleep, making sure there was healthy food all aorund me, making sure I had a social circle that I could check in with. I regularily talked with my family, and built in periods for relaxation and seeing nature in my schedule.

I’m still on this path, but my goal is to create an environemnt around me that is possible by default. This will allow me experience the swings and be creative, while at the same time allow for me to jump back.

If you’re an entrepneur or an artist, I highly suggest asking you this question : What are the default standards in my life right now?

How can you change those standards for the better, so that when you’re in down swing it can help life you up?

Thoughts? Reach out to me via twitter or email : )