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“Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…” I’m not really sure what a room without a roof would feel like; better yet I’m not even sure what that statement means. What I am sure of, however, is that this song makes me really happy and that I feel good when I hear it. Fundamentally, being happy is a good thing. The question is how do we create more opportunities to be happy? Is it really that complex? You are in luck because the answer really is simple. Kind of.
The Death Grip
As a publisher, I am generally asked the same questions often. Every author I’ve ever spoken with, every editor I’ve ever interviewed and every illustrator I’ve ever contacted has asked, “How do you go from science to running a publishing company? What inspired you to make such a leap into the literary world?” The truth is, it wasn’t well planned nor carefully orchestrated in the least. Rather, I was in a desperate creative state as I clawed to maintain my penchant for autonomy and creativity.
The fundamental underpinnings of any science based graduate program is that there is more than one way to arrive at any conclusion. I am sure many other disciplines stress this concept. These concepts meshed nicely with the free spirited path that had guided me in my life thus far. In that world, independent thought and flexibility are praised.
When I actually had to grow up, get a job and become a productive member of society, I saw my creativity and out of the box thinking slowly dwindle. The thoughts that once flowed out of my mind like a wild river came to a halt and slowed to a drip, like a leaky faucet. The growing responsibilities associated with the demands of adult life, the hustle and bustle of work pinned my creative self against the wall in a death grip. I nearly exhaled my last creative breath. I was mundane, and no one wants to be mundane. The mundane never see the truth in the world, rather they live in ignorance of the wars raging about them. I needed to do something, anything but be mundane.
Publishing: The Resurgence of the Creative Me
Self-expression, creativity and freedom of the mind used to be my outlet. How did I lose that? How did I allow life to strip me of that? Not only did I notice this demise in myself, I saw it in my friends and my family. It was like someone held a mirror up to me.
I have friends that once took pleasure in photography and enjoyed a leisure walk to capture the essence of a spring day. There were those that lost themselves in painting. Some friends had a penchant for hair styling and relished with pride in the artistry that it took to get a wash, set and blow just right. Much like I had done, they’d all begun to toss those talents to the side in lieu of a secure and structured corporate career path. All of our creative selves were dying a slow and arduous death in the name of adulthood. It didn’t happen overnight, yet I could eventually see it clear as day. I began to really understand the value that creative freedom brought to our lives. I understood why my mother so fervently supported creative thought, and she didn’t need to a stockpile of degrees to realize it. Simply put, creative expression was good for you!
I decided I would create an avenue for myself where I could write my heart out and no one could stop me. My work didn’t have to live up to the literary guidelines of a Harvard University scholar, it just had to live up to me. It didn’t matter if anyone ever saw it or even liked it, what mattered was that I got thoughts out of mind and out of my heart. I wanted a platform of expression.
That year, my partner and I released the first in a series of children’s books. While we still had work to do in terms of honing our craft as publishers, we did it! I speak for my partner because I know we both went through the same emotional restoration in that moment. I gave my creativity CPR and was rescued from the brink of a creative death.
Since that time, our publishing company has expanded its scope considerably and now we provide these services for other people. The underlying principle however, remains the same: it’s an opportunity to create and share. Not only do I get share my own work, I have the opportunity to guide other aspiring authors in the process and it really is gratifying.
I am still performing a balancing act with publishing and my day job, but considering the alternative, it’s a balancing act that I embrace.
The Science of Happiness:
If we are less abstract in our thinking, it simply comes down to how our bodies respond to certain activities. At the biological level, it’s all about chemical and hormonal response. Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter, helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Along with many other effects of serotonin. Research has suggested that serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness resulting in the nickname the ‘happy hormone’. Serotonin increases when we are creative and it decreases when we are stressed. For example, when we do activities we enjoy, the brain sends signals which secrete ‘happy hormones’ that flow through the blood causing feelings of pleasure- which are similar to the feelings of being deeply in love. Unlike falling in love, creative expression is a part of our life that we can actually control.
Robert Epstein, author of Capturing Creativity has indicated that, “greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. With new creative powers we’re also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily.” More than that, individuals with increased levels of happy hormones, respond to stress and recover from it faster than those with lower levels. People are more hopeful, enthusiastic, focused and inspired, which are all beneficial for individual health.
Because happiness is hormonal, we don’t need to wait for Skittles to drop out of the sky to be happy. There is truth to the statement that you can create your own happiness. Find opportunities to be creative in ways that work for you. Even with crazy work schedules and the throws of life, try to figure out a way to do what you love. Whether its creative writing, art, dance, exercise, or song your body will thank you for it.
And if you can identify with what it feels like to be a room without a roof, feel free to clap along.
Tiffany Brunson earned a PhD in biomedical science and a JD in law, with expertise in molecular genetics, general public health, and legislative concepts. Dr. Brunson has authored several scientific articles, a poetry book and a children’s book series on science. She seeks to encourage and promote fundamental interest and understanding in the sciences. Aside from her day job in the field of health science, she is part owner of a boutique publishing company based out of Atlanta, GA. She enjoys science fiction, Greek and Roman history as well as vampire sagas. She has two adorable dogs, enjoys writing poetry and loves New York style pizza.