The Science of Creativity: How I Got My Creative Mojo Back, and 10 Tips For You To Do The Same
Creativity has a massive impact on both our psychological and physical wellbeing: did you know there is actual science that supports its benefits? Read on to find out more, and to see my top ten tips for reawakening your own creative streak! Or, if reading’s not your thing, check out the Wilde About Wellbeing podcast episode.
A few weeks ago, I was gifted an amazing sewing workshop at The Makery, where I used to attend a lot of classes until my depression, anxiety and socialization fears started to affect me. The course itself was to make an apron, a relatively simple project, but I’d never have got round to it on my own! It was not about what I was making, but the process of creating and the fact that it was helping me socialize.
That was a fabulous reminder of how important creativity is in my life: something I’d forgotten.
“Creativity” is not the end product: it’s the process that you go through. We have a dopamine boost, while we are focused on our art, in the ‘zone’: it can reduce depression; increase feelings of calm; and even improve your sleep. Meanwhile, I’m distracted from negative thoughts and immersed only in the present moment: creating, for me, is an easier undertaking than mindfulness practice.
But my anecdotal experience isn’t as compelling as the scientific research I came across — I’m so excited to share this with you, and hope it is the impetus for your own creative journey!
The Science Bit…
Memory Improvement — A group of 60–86 year olds took a month of acting classes, and this resulted in a clear increase in cognitive function. Another piece of research, highlighted that craft activities and art activities in middle age reduced the risk of cognitive decline by 45% and 75%, respectively.
A Boost for the Brain — Researchers at Edinburgh University found that those who play a musical instrument improved the connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains. showed better connectivity.
Difficult Emotions Management — In a Florida State research paper, a group of prisoners who showed depressive symptoms were given art therapy sessions. The researchers found a significant reduction in depression symptoms when prisoners were engaged in art therapy. Similarly, art therapy had similar results amongst breast cancer sufferers’ psychological symptoms.
These two populations are going through some very hard to express emotions, which may be easier for them to express through art than verbally. Once people are more able to look at how they are feeling, even if they’re not sharing it with others, they have increased self-awareness. It has been found that as our understanding of ourselves increases, we become more resilient to novel and stressful situations: something that both those who are incarcerated and those undergoing cancer treatment are likely to experience.
Immunity — A very curious study has come out of Auckland, which followed HIV patients who spent thirty minutes a day writing for four days, and discovered that the participants’ CD4+ lymphocyte count increased: a sign of increased immunity. There’s not yet a clear answer on why this occurred, but it offers some proof that physical illnesses may also be helped by creative practices.
However, no matter how exciting the science, I promised you I was going to give you my top ten ways of getting back into creativity!
My Top Ten Tips…
1. Make time for creating — It’s all too easy to let things that aren’t scheduled slip through the net!
2. Be open-minded and try everything — Don’t assume that because you enjoyed art at school, that’s the only creative pursuit you want to engage with now. Experiment and find new ways of expressing yourself artistically!
3. Don’t judge your work — There are no rules, and the benefits of creativity come from the process, not the product. Did you have fun engaging in the creative zone? That’s the only judgement you need to make!
4. Try workshops — I really enjoyed The Makery class I mentioned earlier, because it offered socialization and guidance. Sometimes the accountability of a class can really help me get started with something new.
5. Start simple — Writing does not mean ‘Ulysses’, art doesn’t mean an epic masterpiece: write one poem, draw one cartoon animal, whatever it takes to gradually get you into the spirit of creation.
6. Be inspired by others’ work — Dopamine also increases when we visit galleries or museums, or go to a concert or play; even looking through Pinterest can be the dopamine-fuelled inspiration you need to get started!
7. Create for yourself — Although later you may want to share your creations with others, or even gift them to friends and family, start by creating for you. Don’t burden yourself with expectations that this is going to be the perfect gift for Mothers’ Day or whatever.
8. Just start — It’s easy to get bogged down with planning: you know what I’m talking about, spending hours and hours on Pinterest! You don’t need to plan it out, when you are simply enjoying the process!
9. Reward yourself — Once you get into a regular practice of creating, reward yourself regularly for keeping it up. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but make it something related to your art: a plectrum for your guitar; a new set of paints you want to try, etc.
10. Subscribe to a magazine — If you have a magazine about your craft landing on your doormat once a month, you’ll be receiving a regular nudge! As well as that boost of dopamine, when you look through the magazine, inspired by all the creations!
Overall, focus on the process, not the product, and try to silence any judgements you are making about what you’re creating.
For more on this topic, listen to the Wilde About Wellbeing episode that tackled this!