Science continues to reveal encouraging evidence about the mental health benefits of creativity. From painting to potting plants, planning parties and beyond, creative activities help us perceive the world in new and different ways. Creativity allows us to create beautiful work, problem-solve, and refresh our bodies and minds. Having fun positively impacts our mental health.
How Does Creativity Improve Mental Health?
Being creative can increase positive emotions, reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety, and improve the function of our immune systems. The Journal of Positive Psychology supports these findings, stating that “spending time on creative goals during the day is associated with higher activated positive affect.” Positive affect refers to positive moods people experience including joy, happiness, and optimism.
Expressing ourselves through creative and artistic activities can help to relieve stress and anxiety, and lessen shame, anger, and depression after experiencing a traumatic event. At Diversus Health, Clinician Kim Nguyen offers an art therapy referral program for individuals with PTSD.
“Using our creativity, we can also practice releasing and letting go of what could potentially become toxic to our mind, heart, soul and body,” says Kim Nguyen, Clinician at Diversus Health. “Whether it’s through written words, physical or artistic movements such as interpretive dance along with our favorite melodies, splattered watercolor paints, pour acrylic paints, intuitive drawings and/or repeat patterns with Zentangle…etc.; all of these techniques help us to access the powerful tool of our mind – the imagination to heal ourselves.”
Creativity can put us in a flow state, meaning we become focused with optimal attention on a task or activity. This is sometimes called being “in the zone.” When we are in the zone, it can feel euphoric, and we become more mindful and relaxed. This flow state in creativity allows us to feel more positive and cultivates a sense of accomplishment.
How to Boost Creativity
Practicing creativity is a wellness exercise, similar to having a healthy diet and steady workout routine. Even if we do not think of ourselves as artists or creative innovators, we all have a varying amount of energy, intelligence, and discipline to expand on our ability to express ourselves and be creative.
“The more we practice using our imagination, the better we will be able to express ourselves without the need of verbal language,” says Nguyen. “This also helps us to turn inward amid this noisy world.”
Below are some ways we suggest trying to boost your creativity:
Draw or Paint – There is a lot of healing power in making art. Activities like drawing and painting can relieve stress and symptoms of depression, as well as improve memory and resilience in older adults. Drawing and painting can help seniors with dementia reconnect with the world.
Sing or Play Music – Music is a bonding method. When we harmonize or sync with others musically, we develop more positive feelings towards them. Singing can raise levels of oxytocin in both amateur and professional singers. Even listening to music releases oxytocin. Music directly impacts our ability to trust and socially connect to others. This is a great way to enhance creativity and express ourselves.
Dance or Move Your Body – Dancing relieves anxiety and improves our quality of life, while getting us moving. Studies have shown that dancing and moving to music can provide mental health benefits to breast cancer patients and lower risk of dementia in seniors.
Write or Tell Stories – Writing and storytelling have long-lasting psychological and developmental benefits. Exploring imagination and creativity through storytelling, journaling, and writing allows us to express ourselves, problem solve, communicate with others, develop self-confidence, and discover things that make us feel happy and fulfilled.
Spend Time in Nature – Nature affects creativity by way of immersion into natural settings. Disconnecting from technological devices and going out into nature has shown to increase performance in creativity and problem-solving by 50 percent. Nature provides emotionally positive stimuli for enhanced creativity. The next time you are stumped by problems that need solving, step away from the computer to take a walk in the garden or sit in the park.
The experiences we have while being creative or artistic are similar to experiences we gain during meditation, mindfulness, and yoga exercises. Creativity is designed to help us find peace, calm, and happiness in our everyday lives. By being creative, we inspire ourselves to think outside of the box and come up with new ideas. Let’s indulge ourselves in fun activities that allow us to create art, sing, dance, or write. The idea is to feel good, become renewed, and be revitalized through the mental health benefits of creativity.
*If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, request an appointment with one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health today. If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.