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Why Creativity Is So Important to Emotional Health

It’s a mindset that makes space in your life for focus, energy and joy.

Being creative
Credit: Getty Images

One of the great gifts of human existence is the opportunity to be creative—not just in escaping from predators or seeking out food like other creatures, but in ways that bring us joy. Creative expression opens us up to new experiences; it allows us to meet each moment with both presence and positivity.

So how can we make space for creativity in our lives?

One new study suggests that exercise can spark the imagination. Researchers at the University of Austria followed 79 people with activity trackers over a period of five days. The participants were then invited to a lab to complete creative tasks. The more active the participants were, the more creative their ideas.

Another recent study connected creativity with empathy. Students’ scores on creative thinking skills improved when they were given a curriculum that encouraged them to be empathetic with an emphasis on being open-minded and emotionally expressive. It’s an inspiring concept—that when we are open to seeing things through others’ eyes, we can approach our own life’s tasks with creativity and curiosity.

Creativity is also social, with studies pointing toward “a-ha” moments taking place while walking with friends, at chance encounters or meeting at coffee shops with others. 

Of course, our at-home lifestyles during the pandemic aren’t conducive to the creative sparks that come from being in social company. But the other evidence-based tips—regular exercise, even in the form of a walk around the block, and empathetic connection with the people in our lives—are perhaps more accessible and important to us than ever.

“Creativity takes courage,” said the artist Henri Matisse. Stepping out of our comfort zones is an emotional risk. But to protect our open-hearted sense of joy, it is a risk well worth taking.

How do you find creative expression?

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