“Creativity is the route to authenticity. When we take the time and energy to develop our own ideas, we respect our inner nature and are better able to express ourselves to the world on a regular basis.”
I was chatting to an Australian acquaintance in the big smoky Johburg yesterday about living in White River. As usual I quickly found myself talking up the town. When I do this I remind myself of all that is here. One of the things that surprised the man from downunda was the concentration of artists we have in the area.
There are indeed many talented people on our doorstep who create beautiful, delicious and useful things, ranging across the artistic spheres, and we are grateful for the colour they add to our world.
I have been reading about the benefits of creativity and found a range of articles and research that point to this. We aren’t all Mozarts or Renoirs, but we can all be creative in our own way. I saw a comment that not all of us are creative – I disagree and believe we all can and should invest time in expressing our thoughts, feelings and ideas , even if just for us.
Creating is not just about “being an artist”.
I like the idea that there are no rules about being creative and that it is a development and extension of ourselves. Creative activity not only is good for our well-being, it also improves us as people in a community.
I thought about how this applies to me. I never used to think I was creative (don’t ask me to draw, paint or make something!) but I create in numerous ways: ideas & solutions for people and organisations; cooking; writing, attempts at photography and music, and of course parenting. I do these things, sometimes well at times not so well – but all of it is creating.
How are you creative and what does it mean to you?
In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health.
In that article, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies about the impact of art on your health and your ability to heal yourself. The studies included everything from music and writing to dance and the visual arts.
As an example, here are the findings from five visual arts studies mentioned in that review (visual arts includes things like painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles). Each study examined more than 30 patients who were battling chronic illness and cancer.
Here’s how the researchers described the impact that visual art activities had on the patients…
- “Art filled occupational voids, distracted thoughts of illness”
- “Improved well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
- “Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”
- “Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”
- “Reductions in distress and negative emotions”
- “Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”
I don’t know about you, but I think the benefits listed above sound like they would be great not just for patients in hospitals, but for everyone. Who wouldn’t want to reduce stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions, and reduce the likelihood of depression?
Furthermore, the benefits of art aren’t merely “in your head.”
The impact of art, music, and writing can be seen in your physical body as well. In fact, this study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients found that writing resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.”
That’s the fancy way of saying: the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system.
In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.
Create More Than You Consume
The moral of this story is that the process of making art — whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or anything in between — is good for you.
There are both physical and mental benefits from creating art, expressing yourself in a tangible way, and sharing something with the world. I’m trying to do more of it each week, and I’d encourage you to do the same.
In our always-on, always-connected world of television, social media, and on-demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.
Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.
Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.
Build something. Share something. Craft something. Make more art. Your health and happiness will improve and we’ll all be better off for it.
James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.
This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.