Mindfulness, Creativity, and Nature: A Healing Trifecta for Lasting Peace

“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that gives birth to imagination.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Before my accident, before we had kids, after we divorced, after my father died from Covid, before the pandemic…

It is easy to see our life as a series of before-and-afters. This divides our reality, both personally and on a larger scale. These sections provide context. They help us reflect on what happened, how it was, and even who we would be if that had not occurred.

My belief has always been that there is no reason to go back except to learn. Still, I can’t help but wonder: What if, when my marriage ended, I already had mindfulness skills in place? Imagine if I knew the many ways that nature can soothe my soul. What if my life was different if creativity were the best place for me to express my feelings?

Perhaps my grief and pain would have prevented me from being paralyzed by sorrow. Perhaps I would have spared my children a horrible custody battle. There is always a possibility that I wouldn’t have become bankrupt. What if I had ever been divorced?

Here’s the biggest question: Would I change any of it now?

Not a chance.

It was difficult but I realized that all the tools I needed to survive was there, and will always be.

My journey led me to a path of sharing what I am most passionate about: helping others find their way, through what I called a “spiritual toolbox”—a personal supply of healthy actions and practices to choose from or combine when things become difficult.

It can contain things like gratitude and creativity practices, exercise and meditation, time spent in nature and journaling, as well as a warm hug and the affection of your pet. It’s wonderful to open in the moment, and it’s even better to use as preventative medicine (the toolbox, not the wine).

My “aha” spiritual-toolbox moment came when I accidently discovered the transformative power of combining three tools specifically, as a trifecta. These tools were time in nature, creativity and meditation. 

This trifecta insight split my life into 2 parts, asleep and awake.

The first part is quite literal: at age nineteen, I fell asleep while driving and didn’t walk for nearly a year afterward. My accident was the synopsis and ending of a carefree childhood and adolescence, where I suffered no hardship that would have “awakened” me to anything beyond plans for the next evening.

While I physically felt like I had been pinned underneath my car’s tire, my spiritual awakening was also happening: I was awake and my best friend, who were there with me, weren’t hurt. I was officially “awake” on infinite levels, primarily to the deepest sense of gratitude. And, while I metaphorically “went to sleep” later in other areas of my life, the trifecta was always there to support my awakenings.

Since I was able to crawl, it has been my preferred method of doing things outside. My best friend was my imagination. I could find my mom digging in the creek near our house, rather than next-door playing. I made togas from my curtains, spoke in my own language, and told everyone I was “Elizabeth from another land.”

I was unaware of the extensive and growing research that has shown artmaking and creativity to improve positive emotions, decrease anxiety and stress levels, as well as reduce depression and anxiety. That art therapy could boost the memory of Alzheimer’s patients, or reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy.

I didn’t know that indulging creatively literally creates a “cascade of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals that affect our well-being,” increasing feelings of joy and contentment.

I hadn’t yet wrapped my head around the fact that everyone is creative, and the benefits have nothing to do with artistic skill. Simply knowing that creativity was my best friend made me feel happier and could lift me from any situation was enough to make me happy.

My intuition was awakened and I felt the need to express my creativity.

My marriage ended at forty years old. I collapsed with it, down a slippery and medicated slope, into what was later diagnosed as “brief psychosis disorder.” I struggled with insomnia, bankruptcy, a custody battle, losing my home, and losing my business, all at once. 

While I believe that all prescribed medication are needed and beneficial, my prescriptions were incorrectly written, and so, my mind and body gave up.

Thank goodness, I was recently able to meditate.

I can vouch for the fact that mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools in your quest to achieve peace, well-being and happiness in all areas of life. Research on the topic dates back to thousands of years.

But here’s where it gets interesting: The brain responds to meditation and mindfulness in a similar way to how it responds to creativity—in both cases, external stimuli is blocked out, and the front of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, quiets down. The pre-frontal cortex, AKA the “gatekeeper,” is like a control center, and is very much involved in emotional regulation, decision making, planning and attention, and self-monitoring.

In other words, dialing back the “gatekeeper” can free us up from planning, worry, projecting, and ruminating. Who wouldn’t feel happier as a result? 

Armed with the basics of my spiritual toolbox, my family continued to grow. I raised two sons on my own and supported myself in marketing and PR efforts. It was now that I had a passion for the outdoors, so hiking became my favorite form of exercise.

Studies had shown that being outside has been linked to lower anxiety levels and depression. I didn’t know about the nature-inspiring creativity. Nature therapy is a form of nature therapy that can be used to help people.

I hadn’t read the Time Magazine research about how spending time in nature can lower levels of cortisol, improve heart health, promote cancer-fighting cells, help with depression and anxiety, inspire awe, and increase overall well-being. For me, it was always better to be outside than in.

It was then that I realized the healing power of nature.

My meditation practice began outside. I started to connect with the world around me. Walking meditation became a habit and I was amazed by its beauty and sense of connectedness. It was a new way to experience being present.

Soon, I was making art from natural materials that I had collected. I realized that I was more at peace than I had ever been—and there was a definite “carry-over” of calm, peace, and joy into my overall functioning. 

I can’t recall if I was on top of a rock in Nevada or in a California canyon, but then came the moment: It was the trifecta of nature, creativity, and mindfulness that was changing my life. My depression disappeared and I felt free from all my worries when I combined these tools. It was the first time I felt hope in a very long time.

Slowly, but surely my spirit began healing. It was safe and accessible and allowed me to process the experience and build my resilience. I could then move on joyfully.

I discovered other spiritual tools since that day. As an artist, meditation enthusiast, and nature-lover, I am here to help you find simple ways to support yourself in the strongest trifecta that I know.

Peace on Earth:

A powerful symbol universally recognised, the peace sign can be described as a strong and symbolic representation. It unconsciously or conscious connects people in a positive way. It’s also simple to make, right outside, on the earth, implementing the spiritual toolbox trifecta of creativity, mindfulness, and nature. Here’s how:

You can go outside by yourself or with a loved one.This practice is also great for kids!

Relax and take a deeper breath. Enjoy the beauty, sounds, sensations, and wonder of nature. Take a moment to let the experience soak in.

Allow nature’s objects to call out to you Start gathering rocks, wildflowers, and branches. Be attentive to how the object feels and looks when you touch it. If you’re observing something with someone, then share it with them.

Create your peace symbol by finding the best spot. You can do this in your yard, or at a public location such as a beach or park where others can enjoy and see it.

Take some time to have fun, enjoy, and see. There is no one looking. This is your chance to sink into your feelings and experience the world for a short time. For a moment, take deep and long breathes. Feel the earth.

Take a moment to reflect on the symbol of peace. It is what does it signify to you? When you think about this symbol, what memories or sensations come to mind?

Make a plan To bring back any feeling of well-being and peace that you may have felt through this practice.

Respect your journey and be patient The pursuit of wellness and healing is a lifelong endeavour. Intentional self-care can be a form of compassion for others and yourself.

Give thanks. By creating “peace on earth,” you are implementing the healing trifecta while sharing a powerful message that others might see and experience on their own nature walk. Your inner peace is also being awakened.

Elizabeth Bryan-Jacobs

Elizabeth Bryan Jacobs is an artist and emerging art therapist. She’s also the author of Soul Models and Chicken Soup for The Soul. It is her passion to share the healing properties of art-therapeutic intervention in groups or in hospice settings.  Elizabeth and her husband, artist Bobby Jacobs, also founded “The Spread Your Wings Project,” a 501 (c) 3 devoted to sharing the profound benefits of the arts and art therapy. To learn more, visit  .elizabethbryanjacobs.com , creativeawakenings.net and thespreadyourwingsproject.org.

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Tiny Buddha published the post Mindfulness and Creativity: A Trifecta of Healing for Long-lasting Peace.

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