Being creative can make you happier

Why finding time for creative pursuits each day will make you happier and improve overall wellbeing.

According to a recent study out of New Zealand published in the Journal of Positive Psychology doing just one creative task each day will make you happier. And you don’t have to be the next Picasso to experience the happiness benefit of allowing your creative juices to flow. Your creativity can manifest itself in many ways from baking a cake to writing; painting to interior design. All that matters is that you choose a creative goal that involves expressing original ideas in a useful or artistic way.

So what is it about being creative that helps promote positivity and happiness? According to experts at New Zealand’s University of Otago, there’s a strong connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. Engaging in creative activities contributes to an “upward spiral” of positive emotions, psychological wellbeing and feelings of “flourishing” in life.

As part of the study, 658 volunteers were asked to keep a diary for 13 days, recording how creative they had been over the course of the day and describing their overall mood. Creativity was defined as coming up with new ideas, expressing oneself in an original way or spending time engaged in artistic pursuits. Each day, the participants also rated how much they felt they were “flourishing” ― which the researchers define as experiencing positive personal growth ― by assessing things like how engaged they felt in their daily activities and how rewarding their social interactions were. A clear pattern emerged in the diary entries. Immediately after the days in which participants were more creative, they said they felt more enthusiastic and energized ― in other words, they were flourishing more.

To put this theory to the test, I’ve focused on making this Christmas a creative one. From making my own Christmas cards (with a potato stamp – proof we don’t have to be brilliant to be creative) to creating my own Christmas wreath. And it works. I’ve truly enjoyed allowing my creative side to shine through and I’m not about the hang up my craft scissors just yet. I experienced a real sense of purpose and satisfaction once I’d completed a creative task, which I genuinely think has contributed to a greater sense of happiness over the last month.

As well as promoting happiness, creativity can also help reduce the impact of stress and anxiety, enhance resilience and contribute to a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Engaging in creative activities and art-based therapies has also been linked to improved physical and mental health.

And don’t worry if you’re not a natural artist. There are many ways to get the creative juices flowing and embark on daily everyday creativity. From experimenting with a new recipe to creating a new board on Pinterest; sketching in a notebook to writing a journal, there is a creative outlet for everyone and finding the one we love is all part of the process.

Happy flourishing!

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