Why you should be more creative
Ever thought you’re not talented enough to be creative? You couldn’t be more wrong. I’ll explain why, and what you can do to build your skills.
Creativity forms a critical part of our thought processes and, like any skill, regular practice will pay back dividends. It’s not just artists and creatives that exercise their creative muscles. Creativity is also critical to most industries, including engineering and science, people management, research and development, trade skills, academics, logistics and many more.
In fact, you’d be surprised about how often you’re creative in your everyday life. Anything from cooking to styling your hair is a creative process. If you’ve ever solved a problem (and I know you have), you’ve drawn on your creative muscles to arrive at that solution.
Not convinced yet? Let’s explore some of the benefits of regular creative expression.
Enhances your problem solving abilities
Creativity draws from our life experiences, memories, passing thoughts, dreams and imaginations. We don’t know much about exactly where ideas “come from” but it’s generally accepted that our brains craft ideas by either cobbling together fragments from various places or by filling gaps by “building mental bridges” between known points of fact. For example: when assessing a problem, we might say to ourselves, “I know where I need to go but how do I get there?” Our brain responds by building bridges to create a bigger picture so we can see where we need to go and how to get there. Much of this happens without us even being aware of it. Our sub conscience might assess and discard several possible options before settling on the best fit - all before we’re even aware there’s a problem.
Developing our creative muscles makes our brains faster and more efficient at this process. Wouldn’t it be nice if you already had a solution ready to go BEFORE all that cortisol hits your brain and impacts your otherwise clear head?
The answer is yes. It would be nice.
Keeps your mind active
People who are naturally creative (or those that derive satisfaction from problem solving), tend to feel an intense need to make, build or create things. Their personal needs will not be met unless they are regularly creative, either consciously or subconsciously. Without something to bury their energy in, they will feel listless, adrift in a sea of mediocrity, unable to find a purpose or heading. For these people, creativity can be literally critical to their survival. And being cut off from a creative outlet can feel tantamount to torture.
Thankfully, most of us are not going to be impacted that badly. BUT, everyone should still take every opportunity to be creative because it keeps your mind active and learning - without the typical strain that comes along with it.
Doing minor creative tasks regularly on top of your existing obligations keeps your mind working even when you feel mentally relaxed. Mobile puzzle games are a great place to start. Try opening up some solitaire instead of mindlessly scrolling your various socials. Add a little bit of flare to your next meal - maybe some colour or garnish to an otherwise boring dish. Next time you send a text, a Snapchat or post an Instagram story, draw a little picture instead of using text. Little things like this can stretch your creativity and build your skills with only a tiny amount of extra effort. Plus it adds a little fun to your day.
Increases resilience and adaptability
These skills tie into the first point as they are strongly related to problem solving abilities. However, I want to call these two out on their own because of the huge impact they have on mental health. Last week was mental health week. And, while mental health is important to me EVERY SINGLE DAY, I spent a bit of time last week thinking about the impact mental health has on every part of our lives.
Resilience is essentially your ability to bounce back from failure. People with good resilience can get up and try again faster and with more confidence than their peers. They are more accepting of failure and more likely to jump into something new with less trepidation.
Adaptability refers to how you accept change and react to unexpected roadblocks. Are you scared of change or do you roll with the punches? Does it depend on your mental health at the time? Most people would answer yes. But those people with regular creative exercise will be able to adapt faster and be less impacted by bad mental health days because it will take them less mental energy to solve the same problem.
Anyone who has ever spent time lost in a book, doing a painting, a puzzle, or playing a video game, knows how the power of creativity captivates and engages your mind. It’s possible to hijack this creative process and use it for extra benefits. Creative tasks have this unique ability to seize your entire mental load. The more time you spend painting with Bob Ross, or building red-stone circuits in Minecraft, the less time you spend lamenting your girlfriend dumping you, or dreading that job interview next week.
On top of this, creativity can enhance a very special skill that’s close to my heart called mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and mentally aware of yourself and your mind without interpreting, judging or reacting to anything you might be thinking or feeling. This takes a lot of practice, it’s a very difficult skill to master. Being creative lets us step outside of our “mental box” and glimpse different perspectives - which is a critical part of mindfulness.
You may have heard of mindfulness before and perhaps even heard of techniques or products that will assist you, like mindfulness colouring-in books, fidget toys, or meditative grounding techniques. Creative tasks are simply another tool that can be used to bring awareness to the present moment and help you feel calm, connected and grounded.
In addition, typical of our universe’s cyclical nature, practicing regular mindfulness can in turn enhance creativity. These two aspects are closely interrelated and benefits in one skill will affect the other.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, there are lots of online resources as it has gained significant traction in the last twenty years. I will also be writing more about it in future posts.
Helps manage and stabilise your emotions
If you’re anything like me, sometimes your emotions can be *ahem* …volatile. There are many emotional management techniques out there but the majority of them have one primary key message - leave a situation you can’t control for one you can and then return to the challenge only once your emotions have been moderated. Actually accomplishing that moderation is where expert opinions will differ.
One tool that’s commonly used is some type of creative outlet. Creativity can assist with your mind’s chemical pacing so you’re not overwhelmed with one feeling or another. Even a small creative task can distract your brain at a primal level enough to re-capture control over your mental situation.
Opens your mind
With sufficient practice, expressing yourself will become easier. You will pick up new concepts more quickly and be able to find innovative solutions to difficult problems. Being creative reveals new pathways in your mind that you would otherwise not explore. It can help you keep an open mind which will assist with many attributes valued in modern society like acceptance, tolerance and compassion.
Keeping an open mind might be the best life advice you’ll come across. And regular creative expression can boost your natural neuro-plasticity, keeping your mind fresh, resilient and open to new concepts.
It’s important to round this out with a disclaimer.
You do not need talent to accomplish creative tasks. Obviously if you are pursuing creative talent professionally, you need a certain minimum standard. But, other people’s validation is not conducive to your own mental development if you are only using it to further your own needs.
A little extra time spent on creative expression is worth all the benefits it brings. You do not need adoring masses liking your Instagram feed to reap those benefits.
Humans are instinctively creative. You’ll be surprised about how much your brain wants to improve these skills, and how easy the process becomes with a little momentum.
What can I do to be creative?
Only you will know the best way to engage your own mind, but here are some suggestions:
write/tell a story
play mobile puzzle games
play video games where you can build things - management sims are good for this
plan a holiday
try out a new hairstyle
make a Pinterest board
plan a wedding or event
make a Tiktok
learn a new skill
doodle in a drawing app
create a DnD character
write a fanfiction
take a dance class
I hope you’ve gained some insight on how useful and important creativity can be to your everyday life.
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