A Happiness Journey

Embrace your Creativity

When you think of Creativity what comes to mind? Is it a child, covered in coloured paints, making a mess everywhere as they create their indecipherable masterpiece? Is it a muso in their studio with a guitar, pen and notepad? Or maybe a dancer, moving their body as the music flows through them? What we don’t normally think of is an office, a desk, or a computer. There are some who are lucky to do a ‘creative’ job at their desk, but the majority of adults these days have not tapped into their creativity since they were kids. All through our youth our lives are full of creative activities. We paint, we draw, we make paper mache animals and shapes out of dough. We have imaginary friends, and play out imaginary scenarios with our stuffed toys. As we get older we’re encouraged to take drama in school, act in school plays, play a musical instrument, form bands in garages with our mates or maybe take beautiful photographs on our phones or (when I was a teenager a camera). However, as adults we push these pursuits to one side in favour of responsibility, careers, relationships, kids, exercise we don’t even enjoy and ‘adulting’.

 

The theory of Cognition postulates that being creative is actually the basis for human life so it’s way more important than most people give it credit for; and it goes way beyond colouring and painting!

 

Here are some of the ways in which Creativity can improve your life, mental health, physical health, brain function and your career:

 

Increased Happiness and Motivation

When you succeed at creating a result, your brain is flooded with Dopamine, the feel-good neuro transmitter related to achievement. When we get that dopamine hit, it promotes motivation. Our pleasure centres in the brain are lit up like a Christmas tree and we are motivated to repeat the behaviour that caused the Dopamine. Once the Dopamine hits your brain, this also provides you with the motivation to do other tasks, so when you’re struggling to get something done, try cracking open the colouring pencils first!

 

State of Flow

I’ve spoken about the state of flow in past blogs but essentially it’s the state you achieve when you’re completely absorbed in a task; you become wholly single focused and you lose all track of time. This has the effect of reducing anxiety, boosting your mood, improving your focus, improving your concentration and slowing your heart rate. When you enter that creative zone, time feels limitless, and all other mental chatter just falls away. Who doesn’t want more time? In this creative state our brainwaves slow, allowing original thoughts to form, and a clearer channel for our intuition to engage. This happens as a result of the pre-frontal cortex in the brain temporarily deactivating, going quiet, and allowing us to be less critical of our ideas. During the flow state our brains release an enormous cascade of neurochemistry, flooding us with massive quantities of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

 

Improved Mental Health and Stress Relief

Anything that can slow down the mental chatter is going to be great for your mental health. With over 70,000 thoughts going round our heads every day, most of them destructive, a creative endeavour can help focus the mind in a similar way to meditation and mindfulness. This calms the mind and releases all the happy hormones, promoting a healthy mind. As a result anxiety, depression and stress are all reduced and it can help people manage their negative emotions in a productive way. Studies show that creative engagement not only reduces depression and isolation, but can also help people with dementia tap back into their personalities and sharpen their senses. It has also been shown that for people who have experienced extreme trauma, painting and drawing helps them to process the trauma when they may not be able to put it into words.

 

Boost immunity

I have spoken about journaling at great length in previous blogs but here is just another reason to take it seriously. Studies show that people who journal daily have stronger immune systems, as writing actually increases your CD4+ Lymphocyte count, which is key in the function of your immune system. Listening to music also has a similar effect.

 

Makes you Smarter

Studies show that people who play a musical instrument are able to engage their left and right sides of their brain more efficiently due to the two hemispheres having to communicate constantly with motor function (left brain) and harmony (right side) working simultaneously; improving cognitive function.

 

Improved Problem Solving and New Ideas

Obstacles are a part of life, and challenges are inevitable. By engaging in creative habits we are constantly learning new resourceful ways of growing and problem solving. When trying to come up with creative solutions to a challenge it is incredibly beneficial to be able to see beyond the limitations of the box. Oftentimes we get stuck on the solutions we may have used in the past; this keeps you past focused, restricted and confined. Being able to think creatively opens up all sorts of possibilities, and allows you to extend your repertoire to ideas you may never have had, allowing you to create results you’ve never yet achieved. How exciting does that sound? Once you learn how to think outside the box and engage your creative brain, this not only leads to new art-focused ideas, it will also lead to new ways of experiencing life and the way you perceive all aspects of your life.

 

Self Expression and Awareness

Freedom of expression is one of our human rights and is so important to our wellbeing. No matter what form of creativity you choose, it is the key to the door of expression. Once you tap into your freedom to express, you get to truly sit in your authenticity. As we create we can access those depths of our being, allowing us to truly discover our impulses, passions, beliefs and desires. When we take the time to develop our own ideas, we learn to respect our inner nature and become better able to express ourselves to the outside world on a more regular basis. Once we get into the habit of engaging with the world without judging ourselves, we learn to give ourselves permission to take bigger risks, try new things and stretch into those boundaries of discomfort a little more each time.

 

Confidence and Faith in your Instincts

Whether you put your work out into the world or not, when we create we may start to value our work which can teach us to trust our instincts and increases our confidence. This confidence is not just restricted to our creativity, it spills into all areas of our lives. Creating is a learning process and as we try new things we learn what works and what doesn’t; this allows us to build our failure muscle. Once we see failure as something that is survivable, and something that helps us grow and that it makes our work better, we can release the fear and try new things even at the risk of failing. Once we’re comfortable with failure it also provides us with a safe space to make mistakes. Making mistakes is how we create master pieces. As Edison famously said “I did not fail, I just found 10,000 ways it did not work”.

 

Creativity in the Workplace

Creativity in the workplace benefits everyone regardless of position or title. Being able to focus on the big picture allows employees to become emotionally invested in their work and less fearful of failure. It encourages collaboration, builds better team work and encourages the mindset of continuous learning.

 

A study of over 1500 global CEO’s revealed that the most successful organisations, that were able to masterfully navigate change, were those with the most creative leaders. Creativity was noted as the single most important trait for the leaders, making them adept at navigating through the complexity of corporate data, technology and regulations.

 

In another CEO study, creativity was the listed as the most desired skill with 60% of CEO’s polled citing it as a more important quality than integrity. The reason creativity is the most valued skills is that it directly generates a positive impact on the ROI (Return on Investment) as creative people are the most independent thinkers and innovative with problem solving.

 

It was highlighted in a study carried out by McKinsey that Innovation is absolutely critical to growth, particularly as the speed of business cycles continue to increase. Whilst 84% of Executives agreed on the importance of innovation only 6% were satisfied with the innovation performance within their organisation. For employees to excel at problem solving, it’s essential that they are provided with an environment that encourages creativity in the workplace.

 

How to get Creative

As with anything in life it won’t just happen by itself, you have to start making it a way of life with intention.

Listen to music, this will stimulate the part of your brain that controls emotions and creativity.

Do things you used to enjoy as a child. Pick up a pencil and just draw something. Buy a colouring book, buy a set of water colours.

Dance like no ones watching.

Sing in the shower, sing in the car, sing karaoke.

Grab a journal and write for 10 mins a day, about anything at all. You can write about your day, your thoughts and feelings, maybe just free write without any thought at all.

Write a blog for your work colleagues (my personal favourite).

Take random photos on your smart phone.

Collect stuff from nature when you’re out on your walk and build a little offering. Don’t take it home with you, nature belongs where it is, but create something for other people to find when they’re on their walks. Pile up some stones, arrange some twigs, drag a branch through the sand.

Take a pottery class.

Expose yourself to other people’s art, visit galleries, go to museums, listen to live music.

Play, tap into your inner child and make your normal tasks more fun.

Take a different route to work, check out some new scenery, challenge your old patterns and behaviours.

There are hundreds of ways to tap into your creativity, jut don’t put any pressure on yourself, and don’t expect perfection. If you put too much pressure on yourself to produce good work you’ll be too self critical. The point is to release self judgement so just go nuts.

 

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