Creativity Is Good for Your Health

Despite a dubious link to mental health, being creative not only produces solutions, new thought processes, bold ideas, or a nice quilt: it actually has great benefits to your physical health.
The American Journal of Public Health noted that engaging in a creative pursuit is a great way to relieve stress. In fact, you don’t even have to physically do something creative to de-stress—the journal claims you just have to watch somebody doing something creative or see the results of their work.
Creativity impacts the brain in much the same way that meditation does: by focusing on mindfulness, being in the moment, and reflecting on internal process. Whether it’s sewing, painting, building a garden, or watching a movie, both the act and the mere engagement with creativity naturally stimulate a sense of calm.

Creativity also promotes increased functionality of the brain. It encourages production of new neurons that are crucial to the central nervous system. According to the Croatian Medical Journal, art therapy has been found to be an extremely valuable tool in repairing brains that have been injured in some way, helping to rewire some of the functionalities that have been damaged. CNN reported that middle-aged and older people who take up artistic pursuits were 73 percent less likely to develop the mental impairments that lead to dementia.
Considering those physiological benefits to creativity, it’s a wonder that anyone would deem it something that should only be reserved for one’s spare time or weekends. It’s a trait that needs to be engaged more, in as many life areas as we can use it. And certainly, in view of how much he produced, da Vinci obviously created nearly twenty-four hours a day.

Creativity Is the Key

You probably don’t need more convincing as to the benefits and virtues of being able to think more creatively on a consistent basis. You can see that it’s led to some of the greatest innovations in history, and it can keep you healthy and happy.

And yet, there is more. Truly creative people can apply their faculties of asking “what if?” to every single area of life, specifically using their imaginations to solve problems. This makes sense when you think about it: any problem you have is in a way a failure of imagination, i.e. the failure to conceive of and access those ideas and concepts that constitute a solution. Solving a problem requires something special of us. It asks that we think something we haven’t thought before, try something we haven’t tried before, or imagine a perspective that we currently don’t hold. What could be more creative than that?

Let’s talk more concretely and look at exactly what we mean when we say “problem” before we talk about “problem-solving.” A problem is the experience of realizing that there is a gap between what is and what you wish the case to be. All problems can be framed as a tension between the reality and what you desire. You are hungry, want food but don’t have any food; you wish that you had a garden without any pests to bother you, but you have aphids and want to be rid of them; you have two equally important invitations for Saturday night and don’t know which one to go to, but you must decide; there’s a car heading right for you, making it so that your desired future reality and the future reality it is suggesting are in conflict…

You get the idea. Right in its very definition, we see that problems are whatever they’re defined to be. The way we conceptualize of a problem is more important than the problem itself—in fact, our manner of thinking about a situation is the problem. Therefore, addressing how we engage mentally with reality is the best and only means to arriving at a solution.

We can think of four main types of problems.

The first type is where we know what the problem is, we know what needs to be done, but for whatever reason we can’t motivate ourselves to take that action. The problem here is our resistance to actually bringing about the solution, or our procrastination, fear of change, or lack of motivation. Examples could include dragging your feet when it comes to going to gym to achieve your fitness goals, struggling with quitting any kind of addiction, or simply being lazy when it comes to taking those actions required to achieve the outcomes we know we want. Solving these problems is more a matter of finding the right mindset to manifest the solution that is already understood and identified.

The second type is also where we know what the problem is, but to solve it requires more knowledge or skill than we currently have. Here, it’s not so much a question of motivating ourselves psychologically or removing unconscious resistance or limitations, but rather being more systematic in seeking out the information or expertise we currently lack to solve our problem.

You might be trying to choose between two potential careers, but don’t have enough information about either to make an informed decision. Your solution is therefore to seek that information. If your problem is you have a hole in your roof and you don’t know how to fix it, the solution is to seek a roofing expert. If your personal accounts are in shambles and you’re having trouble filing your tax return, (part of) your response will be to create better techniques to store and organize your data.
Underlying all these solutions is simply adopting the right attitude, and systematically thinking about what’s needed, what you have, what you don’t have, and what you want. It’s drawing a clear path between your current state and the state you want to be in.

Creativity can also be substituted here for expertise or information. You may put together a makeshift roof repair solution using what you know to buy yourself more time. You may not know anything about taxes or accounting, but you certainly use your creative thinking skills when you recall that you have a friend whose partner is an accountant, and consider what you could offer them in return for some expert advice.

A third type of problem is again where we know what the problem is, but the solution we need requires a total shift in perspective, a new pair of glasses to look through, a complete out-of-the-box approach. This ability to reframe and reconsider is fundamentally a creative enterprise. This is because there is actually no new information needed or uncovered—there’s only the need to look at the same information in a different way. We don’t change the problem in front of us, but ourselves, and how we perceive that problem.

By being creative, we ask, “How is the question itself affecting my perception here? What other question could I ask?” We give ourselves the opportunity to reframe, rearrange and restructure. We become curious about our very ability to perceive and organize information, and ask how we can change or become better. A classic example: your “problem” is that you have an irate customer who left a scathing review of your business on a public site. But look at it another way: this person is in a prime position to give you honest and very valuable feedback about what’s not working in your business, so you can improve and avoid the outcome in future. What a gift! With a shift in perspective, the problem is no longer a problem.

Finally, the category of problem that creativity is best able to solve: those problems that are actually unknown and need to be identified in the first place. This is the space where we challenge our assumptions and habits, brainstorm new ideas and get a better handle on the realm of what’s possible. The trick with hidden problems is that they need to be uncovered first, and this can only happen with a large dose of creative thinking. As an example, imagine that a couple starts experiencing problems in their relationship but don’t really know why. They only know they don’t get along anymore, and things aren’t working. Is it a loss of “spark”? Old resentments? Is their “problem” actually perfectly normal for their stage of relationship? Does their communication style need improvement, or is it simply that they’re no longer as compatible? By going to couples’ therapy, for example, they can begin to ask pointed questions to get to the root of the issue—creative questions that they may have never thought to ask before.

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Rapid Idea Generation: Practical Everyday Creativity for Idea Generation, New Perspectives, and Innovative Thinking By Peter Hollins
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Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition. Visit to pick up your FREE human nature cheat sheet: 7 surprising psychology studies that will change the way you think.
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