Another Good Reason to Follow the Creative Urge – Your Health
In a recent article in Psychology Today
, Cathy Malchiody, PhD, states that there is now sufficient scientific evidence to prove that creativity is a well-being practice.
Studies conducted over the last couple decades demonstrate that a having a creative practice, such as dance, music, writing, or visual arts, shows definitive health benefits.
The majority of case studies done indicate that an art practice can improve emotional stability and increase positive emotions, while reducing stress and symptoms of depression,
and even improve the function of the immune system.
The article goes on to state:
As of 2015, additional studies indicate that creative self-expression and exposure to the arts have wide-ranging effects on not only cognitive and psychosocial health, but also physical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, various forms of dementia and cancer.
Additionally, a recent study done by the Mayo Clinic showed that doing one of various kinds of arts and crafts activities can significantly delay cognitive decline during old age.
The study suggested that engaging the mind in a creative activity can protect our brain’s neurons and stimulate the growth of new neurons. (American Academy of Neurology, 2015).
Creativity and Longevity
When I look at these studies I am reminded of my grandmother, who lived to the ripe old age of 99. Her creative craft was quilt-making, as well as gardening, until very late in life. Right up until her moment of passing she was mentally sharp as a tack and had a sunny outlook on life. Looking back, I suspect there are other factors that kept her sane, healthy, and energetic, such as having family, being active in the community, and eating healthy, fresh foods.
Having been a health coach in the past, and now as a creativity workshops instructor and art coach, I often find my students and clients reporting that their creative practices make them feel better in multiple ways, including physically and mentally. If you, like myself, have experienced for yourself the health benefits of having some kind of daily creative practice, it is relatively easy to see the correlation: It feels good to follow the creative impulse. How we feel and what we think directly affects our state of health.
In short, the better we feel emotionally, the better we will feel physically.
What Can I do Creatively?
Maybe you are drawn to this idea, but don’t yet have a regular art practice, or have no idea what you could possibly do that is creative. Some of us have been told over the years that we’re simply ‘not the creative type’ or that we’re simply not artistically gifted. To those of you who have the creative impulse and yet feel mired in this mystery, I would say this – you are not alone. The amount of creative suppression that remains in our societies is nothing short of astounding. There are many reasons for this, but the important thing is to ignore any suggestions that you are not capable of creative self expression, regardless of how old you are or what your circumstances are. If you do your best to remove yourself from the elements, or people, who have drilled this falsehood into your head, it will be that much easier to find a suitable creative practice that is easy and fun – and health-giving – to do.
If you find yourself stuck and need a creative boost or simply need some creative inspiration, creativity workshops might be for you. I have found immeasurable benefits from certain kinds of creativity workshops over the years, as well as having benefitted by being around others who live by their creative impulses. There are many avenues to finding your specific creative contribution, and you’ll find yours with a little effort and simply believing that you can do it.
One more essential element to note: following your creative impulse means authentic self expression, and does not by any means imply some kind of ‘paint-by-numbers’ activity. As Malchiody aptly states:
“…it does not fully manifest from completing an adult coloring book sheet. It’s our capacity to actually “create” is where we begin to live more fully, experience transformation, and recover the core of what it means to heal. It is your authentic expression through art making, music, song, movement, writing, and other forms of arts-based imagination that are central to the equation of why creativity is a wellness practice.”