Is there a link between everyday creativity and overall wellbeing? Experts say there is. The consensus is that creative people are actually happier than everyone else, no matter their skill level in their art of choice.
The key to happiness lies quite literally in your own hands, not in love, career, or financial success, and you do not even have to be a professional to reap the benefits of any creative hobby. So before you compare yourself to a rich neighbor, a highly successful colleague or an established artist, know that you have a huge creative potential – and take comfort in the fact that you can be happier in life.
Scientific evidence that creativity boosts happiness
A study titled “Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing” by Dr. Tamlin S. Conner, which is published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, suggests that creative activities impact health and wellbeing.
A total of 658 university students took part in the study. They were instructed to keep a diary to document how much time they spent on creative tasks and the emotional changes they experienced as a result.
After 13 days, Dr. Conner and her team found out that spending time on creative activities during a day is associated with higher activated positive effect (PA) on that day. They have tracked what they described as an “upward spiral for wellbeing and creativity” for those who engaged in daily creative activities.
The study also suggests that creative people are not only more likely to be more enthusiastic the day after creative activities but are also increasingly happier in all aspects of their lives. In short, creative people score high in happiness.
Let’s get creative… to be happy
Dr. Conner and her team broadly define creativity as “…coming up with novel or original ideas; expressing oneself in an original and useful way; or spending time doing artistic activities.”
People often say ‘I’m not creative,” which simply is not true. We are all capable of creativity. We are doing it all the time without noticing, but sadly most of us think of creativity in terms of arts, which include painting, drawing, sculpture, musical performance, and even creative writing. All these are creative acts but creativity is vastly bigger than that.
As I have mentioned earlier, you need not be a professional to enjoy any creative activity you want to pursue. Though different people may have different talents, absolutely anyone can be creative. Moreover, creativity is not limited to the arts as it applies to everything from trying on a new hairstyle to making a balance sheet. It is a matter of open-mindedness, especially when trying new things.
Why does it feel good to pursue creative activities? How does being creative help us?
• It relieves stress and depression. Doing creative tasks or even just observing creativity like attending a concert or visiting a museum contribute to better mental health, lower anxiety, and fewer symptoms of depression. Creativity promotes self-reflection and greater understanding of oneself and increases our control over emotional pain and depression.
• It helps us cope with chronic diseases. Numerous health conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s are associated with stress, other than poor diet and physical inactivity. By motivating people to focus on the good things in life and helping them increase their self-worth, creative activities contribute to better health outcomes, lesser pain, and even shorter hospital stays.
• It helps us express ourselves. Creative activities provide us the healthiest ways to release our stuck emotions and channel negative emotions. Painting, writing poems, making music, and other creative pursuits can help us with disappointment, depression, defeat, grief, loss of a loved one, worries, and sorrows. Creative activities increase our self-awareness and change the way we think about ourselves and see the world around us.
• It helps us focus on the moment. Creativity is a process, whether it involves creating something new or basking in the creativity of others. When you become completely immersed in what you are creating or observing, you lose sense of how much time has passed and even forget about being angry, hungry, or tired.
Harnessing creativity proves to be an uplifting and empowering path to creating our own happiness. Keep in mind that it is not impossible NOT to be creative. Simply by living, we are creating things that did not exist before – if we are open enough to create or just observe.