Creativity is not just for kids! Being creative can improve your mood, reduce stress, increase productivity and build focus

Do you remember how you felt the last time you were working on a creative project? It could be art, whether painting, coloring, illustration or a craft like knitting, crochet, macrame, clay modeling, needlework. I’m sure you would remember some positive feelings whether it’s the joy from creating something or a sense of relaxation and calm from a slowed-down pace of activity & distractions. In a survey conducted by Sprout Creativity, an online platform, more than 90% of participating adults reported wanting to spend more time on creative projects. Creativity and creative projects are an important part of mental and emotional wellness for those who engage regularly. Like exercise, meditation and other self-care routines, regular practice and participation in creative activities has some proven benefits and as adults we need more opportunities to take part in creative expression.


Craft-based projects focus on repetitive actions and as per famous psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi creative projects help us enter a “flow” state, or be “in the zone”, a mental state which is fully immersive. This state is beneficial for a number of reasons and in an increasingly digital and distracted environment it can also contribute significantly to reducing stress and anxiety while improving overall wellbeing. 


This is supported by scientific evidence where a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology[1] showed that adults who spend time on creative activities report enhanced positive moods like joy, happiness and optimism. The impact creativity has on building our perspective helps to increase focus on the possibilities in life while also helping to manage difficult emotions. The study found that participants who engaged in creative activities reported feeling more energetic, enthusiastic, and excited the next day in addition to feeling calm, content, and relaxed. 


However, since everyone is different, some people might prefer creative activities which involve other people, whereas others might benefit more from individual projects. In addition, creative projects also differ in the process as some can be light, fun and immediately pleasurable while others might have a longer process of learning and hence outcomes. In another study published in the Art Therapy Journal, researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during 45 minutes of making art[2]. The study also found that the specific individual experiences can differ with creative activity being an enjoyable or relaxing experience for some, whereas for others it may bring a sense of freedom of expression, or create a flow experience, trigger insight, and provide greater learning about one’s self. 


Despite creativity having these benefits, it’s not easy to be consistent with creativity and there is a need for better understanding of not just the skills and techniques but the creative process which has its own ups and downs. As kids we are blessed with opportunities to nurture different forms of creative expression and as we grow older we need to continue to engage in some form of creative projects even if its limited to once a week or 1-2 projects a month.


More research on the therapeutic benefits of creativity would be great though leading a more creative life is definitely a top recommendation to destress and refresh from the daily structure and routine. You don’t need to be an artist or an expert, you only need to have an open mind and set aside 30-60 mins a week or more for your chosen creative practice!  You can also join Sprout Creativity, an online platform for beginners and artists looking to discover and practice varied crafts. And like meditation or fitness, engaging with creativity is a practice that requires training and habit building to achieve long-term benefits. This is why at Sprout Creativity members or encouraged to set their own creative journey and track progress.

[1] Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing, Tamlin S. Conner, Colin G. DeYoung, Paul J. Silvia, 2016

[2] Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making, Girija Kaimal, Kendra Ray & Juan Muniz, 2016

Cover Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash