Creativity has a TON of important positives to offer us. I’m going to walk you through what I think are the most important benefits of creativity. To get you pumped up to explore and strengthen your own creativity over the next several days, here are some of the more profound benefits of creativity you stand to experience.
You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.
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Let’s start at the top
As in the top of your body. Because creativity is decidedly good for your brain. When you get in to the zone of doing something creative you enter what’s known as a flow state. That’s when your brain waves slow down, making you better hear the inspired thoughts that are often crowded out by the chit chat of thoughts about more pressing things.
In addition, your prefrontal cortex goes into a kind of suspended animation state. Which means you’re less likely to judge your abilities and ideas, and more likely to do something that’s a little out of the box. Feel good neurochemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, are also released. So it’s like your brain is getting a runner’s high and your creative act can result in an elevated mood.
Creativity is also good for your mental health
Multiple studies have shown that engaging in creative pursuits increases your experience of positive emotions. Joy, optimism, and happiness, and positive emotions are what enrich our lives and make it worth living. Other studies show that creativity can reduce the symptoms of depression and lower anxiety.
Along these lines, creativity also helps you process your emotions and sort through your ideas.
As William Faulkner said, “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” It’s not that creativity gives you the thoughts or the feelings, but going through the process of making something creative forces you to get present to what’s in your mind. And try to distill it to the point that what you’re making represents how you’re feeling. And then looking at–or listening to– the results of the creative act helps you make sense of those feelings or ideas.
What you create doesn’t even need to be directly related to what you’re going through to help you make sense of it all. I read a great article in the New York Times about a family who made an origami crane for every day of lockdown. And while it just seemed like something to do at first, seeing the cranes pile up helped them understand the nature of this very weird time in a different way. And posting photos of them on social media helped them connect with others and have conversations about that time that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
As you can imagine, processing your thoughts and feelings also helps creativity reduce your stress
Those positive emotions that creativity can elicit naturally lower stress because they change your focus away from what’s worrying toward what’s meaningful. Also, when you’re creative, you are in the moment, and that is basically mindfulness in motion. It’s a form of meditation.
Creativity also makes you, well, more creative, and that helps you approach everything in your life with a new, more observant and imaginative lens. Even things that are traditionally more left brained, such as problem solving.
I mean there is a whole science around art therapy that helps people work through their issues and develop on an emotional level through art. It’s certainly not frivolous. If you already have some kind of creative practice or hobby or whatever you want to call it, good on ya! I hope some of the benefits of creativity you’ve just heard will reinforce what you’re already doing, and remind you that your creative practice is a worthy expenditure of your time.
And if you DON’T already have some kind of creative practice, I’ve got some episodes coming up this week to help. Tomorrow I’m talking about one fundamental idea that will help anyone be more creative. Wednesday I’m talking with Jackie Dishner, a writer, artist, and leader of the Creative Coping for Women Facebook group about how to find your own personal creative practice. Thursday we’ll cover how to invite inspiration into your life. And on Friday, I’ll talk about how to get around the inner critic. Which will almost certainly try to tell you that you shouldn’t waste your time on creative pursuits.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your quick tiny assignment today is to do one creative thing. It could be tiny, like doodling in your notebook for five minutes. Or answering a question that your partner, friend, or child asks you in rhyming verse. Or a spontaneous dance when you hear a song you like on the radio. Maybe open the fridge and challenge yourself to make something using the ingredients you have on hand. Just look for an opportunity to do something creative today, and then notice how it makes you feel.
And come on back so we can continue to reap more of these amazing benefits of creativity!