10 Ways to Unleash Your Creativity for #ChronicLifeClub

Patient Expert

We are really excited to start #ChronicLifeClub. Every month, we’ll talk about how to live a full and meaningful life with chronic illness. This month, we asked how you use creativity to cope and there’s still time to share pictures of your creative works on our Facebook page.

I lose myself in photography, Britt dives into painting. Many other people in the community create in these ways, too, but there are many other ways to be creative. If you’re stuck on what to do, here are a few suggestions.

Make jewelry. If you’ve ever fallen down the rabbit hole on Etsy, you know there are a lot of people making jewelry these days. You don’t have to be incredibly talented or intend to make a business of it to do so. Visit your local craft store or check out some online suppliers. Michaels, for instance, has an entire section on jewelry and beads, and you can get inspiration on Pinterest.

Color. Remember when you were a child, spending hours with your coloring books and a pile of crayons and markers? (Or was that just me?) Thanks to the new craze of coloring books for adults, you can revisit the joy of filling in spaces with color, creating a beautiful picture. It’s like art therapy. The only expense is for the book and a set of crayons and coloring pencils, as cheap or luxurious as you want.

Music. You don’t have to be able to sing to do it with gusto. Although my sister has suggested that I limit my singing to the shower, I frequently expose her to my “talents.” Use your hairbrush as a microphone or join a karaoke night. If you’d rather play an instrument, but don’t know how, check with your local community college for classes.

Use your photos to create. Digital photography has opened up a world of creativity. Every year, I create a calendar with my photographs, as well as other products. Print on demand sites, such as Zazzle and Cafepress, allow you to design any product imaginable — greeting cards, ornaments, blankets, T-shirts, posters, stickers, fabric, and much more. Use them for yourself, as gifts, or post them for sale.

Garden. There is nothing quite like getting your hands in the dirt and helping plants grow. Cooking with vegetables you’ve grown yourself tastes so much better than when you buy them from the store. If you’re having trouble reaching the ground, make it come to you by creating some raised gardening beds. Chronic pain doesn’t have to get in the way, there are many tools and techniques for gardening with mobility limitations.

Write. Writing is a wonderful escape and stress relief. Obviously, I’m biased — I’ve been writing since I could string letters together to make words — but there is evidence that writing can actually be a form of therapy. Simply writing about the pain of chronic illness can help you cope with it. Writing something personal, such as a memoir of your life with illness, can have beneficial physical and emotional effects. It doesn’t matter how you do it — in a journal, on a scrap of paper, on your computer — just write your heart out.

Sculpt. Playing around with clay, creating forms out of a lump of material, is wonderfully satisfying. Even people who’ve never worked with clay before can create something unique and beautiful. You might be able to find pottery classes in the community where you can make mugs, bowls, and vases. If your hands are affected by rheumatoid arthritis or another chronic illness that impacts your dexterity and strength, regular clay may be too hard to work. Instead, pick up some Form-iT Clay, a type of modeling clay that is used in a variety of settings, ranging from special effects, to architecture and kindergartens.

Knit. Working with yarn by knitting, crocheting, or weaving, has been called a type of meditation in motion. The soft yarn moving through your hands, and the repetitive motion of the needles or loom combine to transform the simple act of handiwork to something more. Or you can just do it while chatting with friends.  Even better, you get a wonderful end result: a sweater, mittens, socks, a blanket, etc. It’s an excellent way to create fairly inexpensive gifts.

Dance. When you have a chronic illness or chronic pain, movement often becomes associated with something negative (pain, fatigue). Dance can bring it back. If you take a dance class, make sure to talk to the instructor about ways of modifying the steps to suit your body. But you don’t have to dance in any formal way in order to enjoy yourself. Crank some music you like and start moving in your living room. If you’re really hurting, chair dancing, or even just tapping your feet in time to the music, will make you feel much better.


Cook. We don’t often think of cooking as being a creative endeavor, but it’s one of the most creative things there is and you do it every day! Whether it’s putting together a sandwich, perhaps trying a new jazzy mustard, altering a recipe to reflect your taste, or coming up with something new from the remnants of the fridge, every meal is a little piece of transient and tasty art.

Cooking is also our topic for November’s #ChronicLifeClub. We look forward to seeing your photos of food and treats you made on our Facebook page or on Twitter. Don’t forget the hashtag #ChronicLifeClub! A selection will appear in a slideshow on HealthCentral in early December.

How are you creative?

See More Helpful Articles:

Using Creativity to Cope with Chronic Illness

Yes, You Can Actually Garden with RA

Using Burlesque and Pole Dancing to Come Back from Chronic Pain

Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.