A Silver Lining of Loneliness? It Can Help You Harness Your Imagination—Here Are 9 Ways To Use That Creative Energy
Coming up on a year of social distancing has led a lot of us to experience not-so-fun levels of loneliness. But if I can offer you a bright side to that sad reality, it’s this: As one recent study published in Nature Communications points out, loneliness and creativity have a positive link. After analyzing the brain matter of 40,000 adults aged 40 to 69 years, researchers noted that lonely individuals displayed stronger circuits for reminiscing and [jazz hands] imaginaaation.
“When an individual is lonely, there’s often more mental and emotional space for self-reflection, imaginal thinking, and reminiscing about the past,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. “When we’re in contact with others—whether socializing or working together—the mind tends to focus on navigating human interactions. However, when a person is alone and feeling lonely, the individual naturally spends more time mentalizing, imagining, and pondering both the past and future. The lonely individual may channel substantially more energy into creative thinking and imagination-based thought processes than those who engage in more social interactions.”
“The lonely individual may channel substantially more energy into creative thinking and imagination-based thought processes than those who engage in more social interactions.” —Carla Marie Manly, PhD
And yes, we still need social connection to be well, so don’t dodge all your FaceTime coffee dates. But if you’re feeling lonely and want a positive pivot, why not create something to make some lemonade, so to speak, from an otherwise sour situation? Below, find several thought-starters if you’re not sure where (or how) to begin.
9 ways to use the link between loneliness and creativity to your advantage
1. Don’t be afraid to try out new things
“When creative energy begins to flow, take advantage of it,” says Dr. Manly. “Whether you feel led to write, draw, or engage in other self-inspired adventures, let your creative energy guide you into new realms.”
2. Tap into your body creativity with movement improvisation
“Use a playlist that makes you feel good, and notice how your body wants to move,” says life and career coach Kimberly Lucht. “If you’re rolling on the floor the whole time, that’s cool, just let loose.”
3. Rebrand ‘solitude’ as an opportunity
Being isolated can feel dreadful, but for some it brings a rare (and positive!) opportunity for plenty of me-time. “Rather than seeing alone time as a negative, strive to embrace any periods of alone time as opportunities for greater self-awareness and creativity,” says Dr. Manly.
4. Freely write in your journal after meditation
One way to really embrace your inner muse is to empty your brain first. A compassion meditation may help you feel less lonely and allow you to enter that essential, effortless flow state for art-making.
“When we sit still for a moment, our bodies can release unwanted tension and resistance, which helps our minds be more fluid and creative,” says Lucht. “Let your pen flow freely on the page and write whatever thoughts come up—no editing.”
5. Take note of what methods light you up
“Experiment and energize yourself by getting to know your passions,” says Dr. Manly. “As you experiment, allow yourself to notice what feels energizing and delightful—and then do more of it.”
6. Buy ingredients you’ve never bought before, and cook a meal
Whether it’s Swiss chard, broccolini, rutabaga, or all of the above, “throw it all in and see if you can create some food magic,” Lucht says. You might discover a delicious new meal, and even if it’s less-than-savory, well, we all gotta eat.
7. Go on a walk with no destination
Getting in touch with nature (or simply just getting out of the house, while maintaining social distance) is a boon for your mental health. But a long, unstructured stroll can quite literally take you to fresh new places.
“Walk for a while and see where your intuition leads you,” says Lucht. “Having no end in mind helps your mind be open to the possibilities, which, you guessed it, boosts creativity.”
8. Experiment with your sexual energy
No partner required for this, either, because masturbation is pandemic-approved self-care and there are plenty of delicious sex tips on the internet. “Creative and sexual energy go hand in hand, so if there’s a tantric expert you want to learn from, or another way you want to explore your sexuality, go all in and watch your creativity bloom,” says Lucht.
9. Most importantly, let go of your critical mind in the process
Create for yourself, do it joyfully, and don’t get hung up on the imperfections. “The negative, judgmental mind can kill creativity,” says Dr. Manly. “Allow yourself to engage in imaginative play and creative adventures without a hint of self-judgment.”
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