Creativity can be an incredible way to enhance and improve your wellbeing. New research commissioned by BBC Arts has revealed that taking part in even a small amount of creative activity can improve your wellbeing with powerful benefits for personal wellbeing.
In the largest study of its kind, with almost 50,000 participants, the Great British Creativity Test - in partnership with UCL - explored for the first time how creative activities can help us manage our mood and boost wellbeing.
Led by Dr Daisy Fancourt, UCL Senior Research Fellow and former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, the research shows there are three main ways we use creativity as coping mechanisms to control our emotions:
A distraction tool - using creativity to avoid stress.
A contemplation tool – using creativity to give us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and make plans.
A means of self-development to face challenges by building up self-esteem and confidence.
Here we share some of the benefits and ways you can bring more creativity into your life, to improve your wellbeing.
Being creative can provide a distraction from everything else and in general is more associated with positive emotion and well-being. Being creative allows you to do something that takes your mind off the day-to-day and has even been reported to leave you feel energised and happy. When you put pen to paper, play some music or start a painting or creative project, you can often find yourself completely absorbed and losing yourself in the project. This state of 'flow' is a positive outcome, and is a result of your brain's functions working together rather than seperately, according to researchers at The Science of Creativity, which can lead to a feeling of achievement, and a state of happiness according to researchers.
Creativity Motivates You
It’s not just being in flow that helps your happiness. According to the BBC Arts Research, the repetitive creative motions like drawing, sewing, knitting, gardening, or painting help activate flow. When this flow is achieved, you are creating a result, and your brain is flooded with dopamine, that feel-good chemical that actually helps motivate you.
Lowers Stress & Anxiety
When you work on something which allows your brain to be creative, research shows that it can actually reduce anxiety, boost your mood, and even slow your heart rate.
A Form of Self-Expression
Some emotions can be hard to articulate. Creativity can be a fantastic way to explore self-expression and communicate your emotions through activities such as writing, art, drawing, music and other pastimes.
Some psychologists say creativity might actually be a remedy for someone battling depression. Creativity and undertaking creative tasks whatever they are, might even help someone manage their emotions and even begin the process of healing.
Creativity has been considered to be an effective treatment for patients with dementia. Studies show that creative activities could be stimulating for dementia patients. In addition, creativity activity has been shown to reduce depression and isolation, offering the power of choice and decisions as discussed by psychologists.
Improves Mental Health
Flexing our creative muscles has bee proven by scientists to have a positive impact on our mental health. The immersive nature of being creative can help you to focus your mind and control your thoughts. In addition, the repetitive nature of creativity means that the reward centres in our brain release the feel-good chemical dopamine - a natural anti-depressant that boosts your mood.
Helps Process Trauma
Creativity has also been debated as a practice that can also help you process trauma as those who are able to express through art may have access to a recovery tool that others do not. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.
Supports Brain Development
According to some studies, 'creativity is the highest form of intelligence' because it goes beyond knowledge recall and extends into knowledge creation. Creative people are said to have better connectivity between their left and right brains and when the two hemispheres of your brain communicate with each other, your cognitive function improves.
The next time you feel distracted, are struggling to concentrate or feeling down in the dumps, listen to some music, start writing, doodling, or find something creative to do in the garden. Whatever motivates you, get creative today!