The Positive Benefits of Creativity

energy of creativityQuick: Think of five things you could do with a new box of crayons. (C’mon.  Play along.)

Got ‘em?  Now notice how thinking of those five things made you feel.  If you laughed at the silliness of your ideas, you’re feeling one of the positive benefits of creativity—and you didn’t have to write a single sentence or draw a single line.

Creativity comes in all shapes. What you just engaged in is a sample of the practical, problem-solving kind that we engage in every day.

In fact, it’s one kind of what’s called “everyday creativity” by the people who study the subject.  They also call it “little c” creativity, as opposed to the “big C” kind that stands for works of genius and great art.

Everybody is Creative

In his wonderful TED talk, “You’re a Lot More Creative than You Think,”  internationally renowned fine artist John Paul Caponigro says “The human being is a creative species.”  We’re born creative.  But we’re not alike in our creativity.  We use it in different ways and in different degrees.

Business creativity consultant Dr. Lynne Levesque identifies eight different styles of creativity that she uses to develop top performance in an organization:

  1. The Adventurer, whose Improvisational Creativity is exemplified by photographers, jazz musicians, and talented sports figures;
  2. The Navigator, whose Adaptive Creativity show up in determined inventors and impressionist painters;
  3. The Explorer, whose Catalytic Creativity is like that of Walt Disney and many serial entrepreneurs and successful marketers;
  4. The Visionary, whose Futuristic Creativity is represented by internet gurus, prophets, and strategists;
  5. The Pilot, whose Strategic Creativity we see in skilled project managers and organizational designers;
  6. The Inventor, whose Paradigm Shifting Creativity is found in philosophers and architects;
  7. The Diplomat, whose Collaborative Creativity is revealed by humanitarians, civil rights activists and caring leaders; and
  8. The Poet, whose creativity is thoughtful counsel.

There’s no “best” way to be creative, she says.  The important thing is to decide which style is your favorite and to put it to work for you.

But her model is just that, a model.  Your way of being creative may be something else entirely.  The point is that creativity shows itself in a wide range of activities.

The only mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any.

“Buying into a limited definition of creativity prevents many from appreciating their own potential,” writes Carlin Flora in an article in Psychology Today.  “That would be a shame in any era, but in today’s economic environment, no one can afford not to innovate, whether it’s doing more with a shrinking budget (household, corporate, you name it, it’s contracting), or positioning oneself to join a new industry. You may have to be creative to survive right now.”

She quotes Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, coauthors of Sparks of Genius, as saying “It’s too bad that when considering what endeavors may be creative, people immediately think of the arts.  It’s the problem-solving processes they exhibit rather than the content or craft that make them so.  Just about anything we can do can be addressed in a creative manner, from housecleaning to personal hobbies to work.”

The Benefits of Creativity

Practicing creativity generates a lot of payoffs.  I’ll give you some ideas on how to boost yours in just a minute.  But, according to researchers Ebersole & Hess, (1998) here’s a list of things that creative expression may do for you:

  • Create balance and order
  • Give a sense of control over the external world
  • Make something positive out of a loss, bad experience or depression
  • Maintain your sense of integrity
  • Help resolve conflicts
  • Make thought and feeling clear
  • A greater sense of well-being and personal growth

In addition, creativity can help you build better relationships.  Imagining how things look through another person’s eyes can enhance your empathy and understanding.  And deciding to try a different way of responding than usual when someone irritates or annoys is a creative way to avoid difficulties.

Studies of older people who practice creativity found that they stayed healthier longer and enjoyed health more, had fewer visits to healt care providers, used fewer medications, were more outgoing, had higher moral, and were more socially active, less lonely, and more optimistic.

Ruth Richards, psychology professor at Saybrook University and Harvard Medical School says that engaging in creative behaviors makes us more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative and brave.

“It makes you more resilient,” Richards says, “more vividly in the moment, and, at the same time, more connected to the world.”

And of course, one of the best rewards of practicing creativity is that it’s just plain fun.

How to Boost Your Creativity

As with any of the personal strengths, you can boot creativity simply by paying more attention to it and intending to incorporate more of it into your life.

Start by simply asking yourself “How can I do this differently?” or “How could I do this better?”

Tap into your child-self and look for ways to be more playful, to make your tasks more fun.

Try changing a habitual pattern.  Take a different route to work, for example, and notice what you see.

Renew an old hobby.  Dig out your old guitar or your scrap booking supplies.

Start a new hobby.  Begin keeping a journal.  Record your dreams.  Try your hand at writing stories or haiku.  Buy some art supplies and play.

Expose yourself to more arts.  Visit galleries and museums, go to concerts, the theatre and ballet—even if its only at your local high school.

Read biographies of great scientists, business leaders, musicians, dancers, artists.

However you choose to nurture it, decide to reap some of the positive benefits of creativity beginning today.  You’ll be healthier, happier and enriched.

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