The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

Why Setting Matters for Creativity and Wellness

It is not ALL about the inner life

Setting plays a huge part in wellness. No matter how much you analyze intra-psychic phenomena, dig into the past, excavate family of origin influences and re-visit old traumas, wellness has much to with where we hang out and with whom in the present moment

While it is often true that “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so,” (Shakespeare) sometimes perspective cannot triumph over a trying situation or setting.  “Reality matters,” as some psychoanalysts I have known remind themselves.

  • In The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris, we discover that peers have more influence over children’s development than their own families. 
  • In Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv we learn that exposure to nature is essential for mental as well as physical health.
  • My friend with breast cancer switched treatment centers and noted that the one with the shabby waiting room had a negative impact on her state of mind. And she is someone who is completely uninterested in design, aesthetics and fashion.
  • Color theory, purports that blue rooms breed tranquility while yellow rooms rev you up. My other friend, also a therapist just told me that when she had an office without a window and painted it orange, clients were drawn to it’s coziness. So much that they asked to be seen in that room over other offices in the suite which surprised her.
  • Writer Louise DeSalvo explores how  certain living spaces effected the creative works of writers such as Virginia Woolf.

Setting matters. 

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Though it may seem superficial, the surround has a profound influence. Freud spoke about how we worship beauty in people, places and things, It helps to be aware of that which holds your attention, moves your mind and shifts your mood. Knowing where you like to be and in what company is key for the lifted moment.  While these truths may be self-evident to some, others feel befuddled and set themselves up for disappointment with poor choices due to lack of self awareness. Contentment has much to do with well-chosen settings.

The idea that setting has a huge influence makes me optimistic and hopeful. Why? Because it is something you can control, do something about. Remember the serenity prayer, 

“God give me the courage to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference?”

 You may not be able to change where you came from or what was done to you or even the poor choices you once made but you can now take yourself to certain places that will promote your creativity and health.

Know yourself better and fine-tune your choices by asking these questions:

  • Which friends make you anxious and which friends make you feel free, safe, funny and content? .
  • Where are you able to relax? Which room in your house, café, vacation spot  or which rock, bench or tree stump in the park?.
  • What kind of music makes you feel calm? Happy? Energetic? Wistful? Optimistic?
  • Which pastimes put you in a better place?  Internet surfing? Television? News, shows, movies? Which ones sap your energy and make you never want to get up.
  • What is your favorite place? If you can’t get there just now, conjure it up in your mind. Think it into your whole being.

Quite honestly you do not have to go far or have much money or have a car. If you seek, you shall find a circle of safety, a peaceful zone, a place to rest or the setting that lifts you up. 

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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