Most parents know that letting your children play and express themselves is important for their development, not just physically and emotionally, but also socially and intellectually.
But creative expression isn’t just for kids. And it’s not just for ‘creative types’, either.
Whether you consider yourself creative or not, there’s a bit of it in all of us.
With everything you could possibly want to know right in the palm of your hand, it’s easy to sit back, consume information and feed off the instant gratification.
But there’s a lot of power in creating more and consuming less. And the best part? You don’t have to be a kid or a creative type to benefit from it.
Here are 5 benefits of expressing yourself creatively – along with a jam-packed list of how you can do that.
1. Creativity improves your mood
When you finish a creative task, like writing in a journal, knitting a scarf or drawing a cute dog, your brain is filled with dopamine – an all-natural anti-depressant that motivates you and makes you feel good.
Even something as simple as singing in the car is bound to make you smile more.
A recent study found that taking part in a creative activity just once a day can lead to a more positive outlook. 658 young adults took note of when they were creative and for how long. After 13 days, researchers found that those who were creative every day reported greater levels of happiness, indicating that creativity and happiness can go hand in hand.
2. Creativity boosts your self-esteem
It feels pretty good to be creative. There’s nothing better than that moment of personal satisfaction when you’re finished - not to mention the sense of achievement you get from creating something out of nothing.
In a study published in Arts & Health, researchers found that just 45 minutes of free art making was enough to improve a person’s confidence. Participants aged 18 to 59 used any materials they liked to create something, and afterwards were asked a series of 10 questions. The group reported a 73% increase in self-confidence, which is pretty impressive considering the short timeframe.
If you keep on creating over a longer period of time, you’re probably going to get better at it. And as you start to notice your progress, you’re bound to notice a confidence boost, too.
3. Creativity improves cognitive function
As mentioned, parents often encourage creativity because it’s good for a child’s brain development.
That’s because when we’re creative, we use parts of the brain that aren’t usually in action for everyday tasks.
Studies show that musicians have better brain connectivity compared to those who haven’t grown up playing instruments. While the more analytical left hemisphere focuses on motor functions, the more subjective right hemisphere is all about the melody. Music as a creative activity is unique in that it stimulates both sides of the brain, contributing to improved cognitive function over time.
4. Creativity improves your social life
Social connection plays a major role in maintaining wellbeing at every age.
Creative activities like music groups, cooking lessons or photography workshops provide plenty of opportunity to interact with others and make friends.
For older people who might be experiencing loneliness after a partner has passed or children have moved away, creative activities are a great way to maintain social connection.
A study involving older people with sensory impairments found that participating in creative activities in a group setting helped them extend their social networks. The study not only highlighted how creative activities can help reduce the risk of isolation; it also reinforced how it can help improve self-confidence and mental wellbeing.
5. Creativity alleviates stress and anxiety
You might have noticed that adult colouring-in books are a thing now.
That’s because they help you find your flow – the state where you’re so absorbed in an activity that you forget all the worrying thoughts lingering in your mind.
It’s impossible to be stressed or anxious when you’re completely and utterly in the moment, distracted by a captivating novel, cake recipe or art project.
In a recent study, 57 students participated in a range of painting, collage making, still life drawing and clay modelling activities, just before their final exams. The group showed a significant decrease in anxiety after their art-making endeavours, suggesting that creativity really can help people cope with stress.
An A to Z of creative activities
Convinced yet? Then let’s get creative!
There are literally hundreds of ways you can express yourself, but here are just some of them, courtesy of the BBC.
- Art, animation and acting
- Baking, beat boxing and body painting
- Carpentry, calligraphy and comedy
- Dancing and DJing
- Flower arranging and fashion design
- Gardening and graffiti art
- Illustration and interior design
- Jewellery making and jazz
- Knitting and kite-making
- Landscape design
- Music, magic and mime
- Origami and opera
- Photography, poetry and pottery
- Quilt making
- Reading and rapping
- Singing, storytelling and scrapbooking
- Theatre and tapestry
- Writing and woodwork
- Yoga and yodeling