Consume less, create more
Updated: Mar 1
We are all naturally creative beings. We’re wired to create and express who are - it's a key aspect of being human. Whether you think you’re creative or not, you are by nature - at least partly!
Creativity offers many benefits for our health, helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improves our ability to solve problems and builds our confidence. Given the right environment, everyone can tap into this innate ability to create. But that’s the issue, right there - our environment isn’t always conducive to encouraging creativity.
What gets in the way?
The problem is, modern life is designed to turn us into consumers rather than creators. We’re bombarded by advertising, media, stores selling us things, people telling us what we should be doing… we end up in a relentless cycle of consuming. We live our lives on autopilot.
When we’re consuming and taking in what’s being directed towards us, we’re not able to create or send new things out into the world. Now I’m not saying that all human consumption is bad - far from it. But I do believe we need a balance of both.
We need to consume a certain amount (be it food, material items, technology etc) in order to live in the modern world, but we need to balance this with utilising our creativity and find what makes us feel happy and excited about life. Because ultimately, identifying and following your own personal interests, cares and passions is much more likely to make you feel fulfilled than what other people and companies tell you you need.
As I’ve become more conscious and aware of this exponential shift in the way we live, I’ve started questioning whether I want to go along with it or become more intentional about where I place my focus. The demand for our attention is only going to increase, but we have autonomy over our actions and can choose not to get as wrapped up in the cycle of consuming and busyness if we want to.
It’s no coincidence that we often have our best ideas when we’re out in nature or in the shower! It’s in those moments when we have no external distractions that our brain gets a break from the constant stimulation and has time to think for itself. We need this mental space, and there are lots of ways we can start to clear the clutter and take back our ability to act intentionally.
How can we consume less?
There are plenty of simple steps we can take to reduce the amount we consume both physically and digitally. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
When it comes to something new, ask yourself whether you need it and whether it will bring value to your life. Getting into the habit of pausing and questioning our motives before we spend money can help us be more intentional about what we bring into our lives and prevent the overwhelm that can come with having lots of ’stuff’.
Unsubscribe from mailing lists that no longer serve your interests. I used to receive loads of marketing emails, and gradually started unsubscribing from any I no longer wanted to read. I now receive 5-10 at most, and each one offers me value and leaves me feeling inspired to live my life more fully. I’ve found this a great way to consume media more intentionally, only giving my attention to things that are relevant to me.
Turn off your social media notifications. I did this and it changed my relationship with social media completely, giving me the power to choose when I wanted to engage with it. I also chose to turn off most other phone notifications, and just select certain important ones to allow. Being intentional over your notifications can help you to take in less and free up more of your attention.
Limit use of apps on your phone. The iPhone utility Screen Time allows you to set limits of when and for how long you use certain apps. For example, I have mine set from 7am until 8pm for social media, so I’m prompted to not use the apps outside those times - you can choose the settings and make it work for you! I like this as a way to change our habits when it comes to our phones.
Sprinkle mindful moments or 'brain breaks' into your day. I love the concept of a brain break - it essentially means giving your brain a mental rest in order to help it stay focused. For example, you might use mindfulness techniques, deep breathing, movement or time in nature to step away and restore a little mental energy.
How can we create more?
Creativity doesn’t have to just mean ‘art’ in a typical sense - it can take many different forms. Here are some pointers to help you start creating more.
Plan out your time and prioritise what’s important to you. I like to sit down once a week and schedule time for my work, commitments, seeing friends, creative activities, downtime etc. I have a tendency to skip out things I enjoy when I feel I have other tasks to get done, but since recognising the value that this time offers, I’ve made an effort to ensure I honour and prioritise this time!
Take up journaling to get things out of your head and onto a page. I find a good brain-dump the ideal way to clear the jumble of thoughts swimming round my head, especially before going to sleep. It doesn’t have to be perfectly written, though of course you can journal more creatively if it’s your thing. You could write long-hand, start a bullet journal, use colours and doodles... whatever method appeals to you! Make it your own.
Consider what you’re interested in and pick a new hobby to try. I feel at my happiest when I’m outside and love getting creative with nature photography. I also enjoy trying out new recipes and craft ideas. Other ideas might be painting, writing, playing music, drawing, baking… the list goes on. Pick something that sparks your interest and try it! We don’t need to ‘good’ at whatever we do, it’s just about enjoying the process and expressing ourselves.
Let go of the need to be perfect. I could have fiddled around with this blog post for ages, but if I did, I would probably end up never posting it! It’s not perfect, but that’s okay - I can be pleased that I created it and shared it with others. Cultivating this mindset can take practice, but I believe letting go of perfectionism is key to being happier and more content. Perfection is an unattainable standard that doesn’t help us much at all!
Follow your curiosity. I adopted the idea of following my curiosity from Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful book Big Magic, and it’s been hugely helpful. Instead of feeling a need to stick to a certain path or meet perceived expectations, I try to practice being open to new ideas and opportunities to try different things. When we pay attention to what sparks our curiosity, we may discover things about ourselves that we didn’t expect!
So there we have it… there are loads more ideas out there, maybe you can think of more. But I hope this gives you a little inspiration to take back your power, choose what you consume and make space in your life to create more.
Rather than feeling constrained to the metaphorical hamster wheel, realise that you have a choice and you’re in control of you. Actively make time for yourself and for creativity in your day and guard that time, because you deserve it. Make little changes to create more than you consume, and notice how you feel.