Hello! How are you doing? Having a colourful week? I've been meaning to pen this one for a while, as I think it's important for people to know the benefits of expressing and exploring their creative side. There's lots of useful information out there, so I'm going to try and wrap a lot of it up into this and hope it's insightful, useful and actionable on all this ‘being creative’ jazz everyone hears more frequently now. A little quote below to get things started....
So, what is creativity?
“The use of imagination or original ideas to make something; inventiveness.” - Oxford Dictionary
You see, creativity can be channelled, honed, expressed in tonnes of different ways, not just on a canvas or through arts and crafts. It could be through a board game, party planning, articulating a business problem. I had the perception for years that being creative involves painting a masterpiece, like Van Gogh, or writing and performing a song. Both of which I felt I couldn’t do, so it felt like my creativity was kind of just locked in a box. I used it a little in sports I played, but that was about it. I’ve grown to realise creativity just needs an outlet that works for you, like lots of things. Sure, practice can make you more confident and comfortable with your creative output, but just doing it is fun if you embrace it.
It’s funny that even now, when I think of creativity, I am drawn to painters and musicians, rather than architects, interior designers, warehouse managers, mechanics, accountants (some of those budgets!) and all the other people who need to be creative regularly and may not realise they are creative. This should stop. Everyone is creative, just many choose to not explore, express or appreciate it, for a variety of reasons, so it goes down the pecking order of priorities and / or the benefits aren’t felt. Hopefully that perspective may change - read on!
It’s also worth noting that creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative, but not creative.
To paraphrase a Picasso quote (back to the painters!) “Creativity [Art] washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” That’s cool and something that I now see more and more.
One more definition...
What is mindfulness?
“the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” - Oxford Dictionary
Meditation, exercise, walking through a forest, spending an afternoon painting, being creative, even just doodling are all ways of helping you get into a state of mindfulness.
Who wouldn't want a little more of that every day?
OK, so how does being creative help you and me?
1. It helps you think better
Experiments have shown that being creative, which can trigger mindfulness, boosts your general creativity largely by enhancing divergent thinking — a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. But, many of the qualities associated with convergent thinking are also enhanced by mindfulness. Convergent thinking is basically the opposite of divergent thinking. It generally means the ability to give the “correct” answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity. For instance, in most tasks in school and on standardized multiple-choice tests for intelligence. Quiz time!
2. Feeling of Pride
I did that, yeah, me”. I love this about being creative. It’s cool spending an hour or more creating something, and then et voila. It’s done, it’s there, something that reflects your inner creativity and personality. An expression of you. For showing off in your house or storing in your secret treasure chest. So many people come to M.Y.O and walk out feeling proud and a little more confident.
3. Being able to create something special for people
Every once in a while it’s great to create something unique and special for someone, not just buy it off the shelf. Means a lot to both people. The recipient for knowing that someone has spent the time on it, for them. The maker on having made something bespoke and momorable for their friend or family member.
4. Reduced stress, anxiety and mood disturbance
In The Connection Between Art, Healing, And Public Health — a Review of Current Literature (2010) it is concluded that “the studies included in our review appear to indicate that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress and mood disturbances.”
In another study Everyday Creative Activity as a Path to Flourishing, it concluded that engaging in a creative activity just once a day lead to a more positive state of mind. A creative activity can be simple, don’t worry. You may be doing it regularly already — go you! It could be doodling in a journal, crafting, playing a guitar, redesigning your kitchen. These are things everyone can do! Just acknowledging the creative things you already do can give you a boost. When I think back to some of the jobs I had, I can now acknowledge I was a little more creative than I realised :).
Back to the study. The results surprised the researcher Conner, who didn’t think the findings would be so definitive. Conner said
“Research often yields complex, murky, or weak findings”.“But, these patterns were strong and straightforward: Doing creative things today predicts improvements in well-being tomorrow. Full stop.”
5. Become a better problem solver
I got 99 problems… I was going to rap a little, but I won’t! Short and sweet here. You can become a little more resourceful and creative with figuring things out, much like you need to be when creating something.
6. Expanded sense of time
Time slows a little in the sense that your thoughts slow and it’s easier to stay focused on the task in hand and feel a little more present. This can be referred to as being in the flow. It’s lovely. Ever feel like your weeks are just absolutely flying by and you don’t know how and what you’ve done?
Dabbling in being creative produces an output, which is basically an expression of you — even if you don’t think it is! Over time and with a little practice, you can feel a lot more able to express yourself as you become more comfortable in yourself and the different techniques that you are drawn to.
If you feel you are never creative, that’s cool. Maybe try it once this month and make a mental note how you feel after. Try something you can quickly do like an adult colouring book, doodling, painting by numbers. Do that a couple of times in the next few months, then maybe try more often… you may end up doing it daily — but don’t put pressure on yourself to do that from the outset. Small, incremental changes can become habit.
Start with someone else.
I always find a bit of peer pressure helps. Keeps you in check. Get a buddy who you think would equally benefit from doing this, explain the reasoning and get them on board — they don’t have to do it with you, it’s cool to do it solo, but at the least they can check in to see how it went -> increasing the chances of you doing it!