As an artist, you need a certain type of energy and curiosity. Each area of study has their group of interested IMG_6816followers. Art is an especially welcoming and open area of study and appreciation; There are artists with their special areas of skill–painters, musicians, actors, sculptors, poets etc…And there are art appreciators. For example, you may not be a musician, but you may have an outstanding music collection and spend your extra time and money in the pursuit of watching live music performances (appreciator). In the art world, energy is essential–whirling, colorful, accepting and big picture energy.

I use exercise to keep my life perspective vital and relevant. Exercise is one of things in life where you get more out of it, than you put into it, e.g., the stamina to stand up at an outdoor concert for six hours, the ability to jump on a bike and take a three hour ride along a river, the potential to truly relax and get a good night’s sleep, or the aptness to sit up straight and listen to a lecture in biology class. Exercise allows the body to see food as fuel, rather than an endless supply of calories and flavors. In fact, I think foods taste better when you know they are being used to nourish your body.

IMG_3256In addition to keeping thoughts moving and growing, exercise can boost creativity. The Huffington Post shares an article about Exercise and Creativity. I have to say, some of my best ideas or solutions to creative problems have been thought of in the weight room, raking leaves, on the elliptical, or in the shower–pursuits that are relaxing to me but active in nature. Just to prove my point :) Read This.

What I find the most impressive about the effect of exercise on my creative juices is that it can work the other way around as well. I can hash out challenging emotional or practical problems when I am ‘in the creative zone’. When I am printmaking or painting, for example, and I have the opportunity to be fully consumed by that activity, uninterrupted, for hours, I completely lose time. And in that time, I resolve arguments I may have had with my husband, conflicting points of view with how one of my children is doing in school, what to serve at Christmas dinner for 27 people, or what to write in this blog. Exercise allows my body to feel comfortable and strong for hours on end, while being creative.

In addition to exercise, it follows that eating right would also be a component of creative success. Every morning, IMG_0374before heading out to teach art, I use my NutriBullet to mix carrots, apples, bananas, walnuts, greek yogurt and pineapple together. This smoothie (and many variations of it) helps to fuel me throughout the morning. I feel light and energetic. It can be challenging, in our society, that places happiness and ‘treating ourselves’ in the same realm as unhealthy foods. Teachers (nurses and many other professions) are especially vulnerable to these challenges. The Huffington Post has an interesting article that explains which of the professions struggle with obesity and why they do.

In addition to the lists and reasons why so many professions are challenged by unhealthy habits, I have discovered that, in general, people like to feel supported in their journey toward health. Because I know this from personal experience with team sports, coaching and parenting, I try to share my enthusiasm and my struggles with finding the time and energy to accomplish my fitness goals. Sometimes this can come across selfish, but it is actually my way of staying in tune with the needs of my family, my students and my IMG_6816colleagues. I think it is essential for adults with jobs that provide role models to others to do everything in their power to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Teachers spend more time with children, many times, than their parents throughout the week. It’s vital that we provide the kind of positive role model they need in all facets of their life. Check out this video.

At the end of the day, I think fitness is the key to my creative energy, my patience, my engagement, and my mental health. If you have any interesting articles to share with me, I am open to learning about healthy living and creative approaches to living an authentic life–one that truly reflects the joy and color that is going on inside us (and all around us) every day.


Written by Mrs. Mary McNamara-Bernsten, Keith Country Day School Faculty Member, Art Department