When most people think of creativity they immediately think of the arts; drawing, painting, writing. But there is so, so much more to it.
In trying to understand exactly what creativity is, I came across reams and reams of articles on Dr Morris Stein, a well-renowned psychologist and creative expert from New York. Moe – as he was affectionately known – perfectly defines it as “a novel work that is accepted as tenable or useful or satisfying by a group in some point in time.” He further explained that a “novel” work is “a creative product that did not exist previously in precisely the same form.”
Creativity at Work
Our lives are bursting with creativity when we’re young. We squish and squeeze playdough, build forts and fairy castles, bang on drums or pots and pans. We colour in everything, unconstrained by the lines. Then, when we’re teens, extra murals are encouraged – drama lessons, horse riding, music, dance, chess… However, we seem to reach a point where creativity is crowded out by our career and commutes, our focus on providing for our partners and families, and the daily chores and errands that we all do so mindlessly.
But we all need a creative outlet more than we realise. It has been proven that organisations that incorporate creativity in business – through things such as leadership, problem solving and project management – tend to have greater interpersonal connections. This leads to higher loyalty, productivity, and even innovation. Creative collaborations and flexible time for employees to enjoy what they love not only helps the company thrive but also improves the mental health and well-being of their team members.
Creativity and Mental Health
Typically, when I am creating something, I tend to zone out and get lost in whatever it is I’m doing. This is because the act of creating requires focus and concentration, and leaves no room for multi-tasking. Psychologists call this state of creativity “Flow”. This state is interpreted as “those moments of rapt attention and total absorption when you get so focused on the task at hand that everything else disappears and all aspects of performance, both mental and physical, go through the roof.”
The way the brain acts during creative activities is similar to the experience during meditation, mindfulness and yoga exercises. The purpose of these activities is to help you rest, restore and reconnect by pausing any external distractions. Like these exercises, creativity can produce a natural “high” or feeling of joy and contentment.
These moments of totality occur when the brain waves slow down, allowing space for the original thoughts to better form. Additionally, the prefrontal cortex (which helps you set and achieve goals) temporarily quietens, making us less critical and more courageous. Lastly, during a flow state, our brain releases a gush of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine – the famously happy hormones.
So, with all that said, I encourage you to become less critical and more courageous and engage in something creative as often as you can. I feel most inspired when I’m outside in the fresh air. So if you can, try and sit outside too, in your garden or in a park. Pour yourself a cup of tea, or a stronger beverage if it’s been a day. Put your phone down (extra emphasis on this one). Get comfortable, take your shoes off, breathe. Grab something to draw with – my preferred choice of weapon has always been a fine-liner marker, but a pencil does just fine too. Grab something to draw on – it could be a beautiful piece of fine art paper or, more often than not, the back of a receipt. Now just listen, observe, notice and reconnect with your surroundings. Reconnect with nature and get as close to it as you physically can. Forget about what it “should” look like, and draw what is.
Because, believe me, you are creative.