With eyes up to the sky and hearts swimming in puddles of hope and optimism, we welcome 2017 warmly, despite the bumpy road (ahem… 2016) that got us here. The new year is a perfect time to take on a creative side project. It’s when many of us reassess our current state of being and brainstorm ways we can improve ourselves, usually compiling our results into a list of goals, more commonly referred to as resolutions. If starting, executing, and completing a creative side project is not one of your resolutions for 2017, it should be — and there are a lot of reasons why.

Committing time to an artistic or imaginative project is a great way to have a well-rounded life that speaks to the term “balance.” It’s also good for you, and I’m not just saying that to say it. Science has proven that creativity has many health benefits, including:

Stress Relief

Activities that are creative in nature have the same cognitive effects as meditation.

Improved Brain Function

Being creative nurtures several different areas of the brain in new and different ways, and this leads to improved cognitive function and better problem solving skills.

Improved Mood

There are a lot of immediate interventions to improve a bad mood in the short term, like mindful meditation or super brain yoga. But when it comes to long-term mood enhancement, creativity is key. Taking part in a beloved, creative activity improves overall emotional health, but this is especially true during stressful or depressing times.

Healthier Social Life

It’s no secret that people bond through mutual interests and experiences, and finding those who share your passions is one of the easiest ways to make new, and lasting, friendships. Seek out those who are creative in similar or complementary ways and you will be rewarded.

Higher Sense of Self

Creativity is, by nature, a tangible representation of who you are and what you believe. Whenever you take the time to fabricate something from scratch, you are pouring your heart and soul into it, and this forces you to self-reflect in one of the healthiest ways possible, which in turn leads to you learning more and more about yourself every day.

Lastly, there’s definitely something to be said for tackling a large and daunting task, seeing it through to the end, and then getting to enjoy what you created. The sense of pride and satisfaction that comes from seeing the result of a well-nurtured long-term project are almost incomparable.

If I’ve managed to convince you that a creative side project is, indeed, in your future, but you don’t yet have something specific on your mind, here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling in that noggin of yours:

Home Improvement

Anyone who’s seen even an hour of programming on HGTV has at least one DIY home improvement project they’d like to take on. Why not make 2017 the year you resolve to make your home a little more “you?” Renovating and remodeling is largely a creative endeavor, and a super rewarding one at that. Whether you own your home and have the ability to completely renovate, or you rent and just want to make your living room or stairway a little more artsy, resolving to get a few of those DIYZs out of the way is a great creative side project for the new year.

A Year of Homemade Gifts

A great project to take on would be to resolve to hand make each and every gift you give in 2017. Not only will you get a chance to practice a variety of crafty skills, you’ll also learn more about those you love (and yourself) in the process.

Make your Halloween Costume

I’m not talking the usual spend-a-few-months-finding-all-the-components-you-need-to-look-just-like-someone-else make your costume. I’m talking own every aspect from start to finish: design something unique, find all the raw materials, and sew, knit, or fabricate the entire thing by hand. You might have to invest in a sewing machine to pull this off, but I can personally tout the handiness (and awesomeness) that is owning a sewing machine. If you are going to take the leap, just make sure you get the right one that will serve all of your needs. For instance, if you need to sew leather, some machines work better than others.

Make All of Your Essentials

Cleaning and personal care products are really expensive, and honestly, it’s unnecessary to spend a ton of money on most of them. There are so many great DIY recipes out there, everything from laundry detergent to body soap to lip balm, you name it, you can make it yourself. It will likelier be a higher quality than a store-bought version, and I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. It’s a great way to be creative: with the scents you use, testing and formulating your own recipes, and maybe even making them look pretty enough to package or sell?

Start a Blog

These days, it seems anyone and everyone has taken to blogging about their everyday personal endeavors, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the same. Writing can be both meditative and cathartic, and is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing. Some of the best bloggers use the medium as an outlet to wax on the mundaneness of their life, but if you don’t feel like that is your bag, you can always use this creative side project to boost your business or professional efforts.

Creative Community Service

If helping others is your bag, consider using community service as a creative outlet. If you’ve always wanted to experiment with cooking or baking but haven’t had the time or motivation, volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or even something akin to The Ronald McDonald House, where you will be able to prepare creative meals and treats for people who need them. If you’re struggling to make use of your hoard of crafting supplies, take them down to the local children’s hospital and teach some crafting sessions.

In the end, it matters less what you end up doing, and more that you commit to doing it. Pick a creative side project that will take time and effort to complete, and then stick to your guns and see it through until the end. Don’t be that nine-to-fiver that just goes to work, comes home, and maintains enough of a social life to stay sane. Make 2017 your year, and make it yours by creating something that represents who you truly are!

About The Author

AJ Earley is a personal chef and freelance writer who is quite passionate about a good root beer float. She spends her free time romping around the Pacific Northwest and snuggling her kitty, Buddha.