There are many tasks in life people feel obligated to do, like tax returns or household chores. Then, there are those activities done for pure enjoyment, to create something new, solve a problem, or to express one’s strong interests and passions. The activities people do because they are highly motivated to do them are worth paying some extra attention. Whether it’s painting, renovating, building, cooking, genealogy, singing, playing with children, gardening, or something entirely different, the joy that comes from creative expression can reduce stress and anxiety, sharpen the brain, boost self-confidence, and improve overall health and well-being.
So what is creativity, anyway? Being creative isn’t reserved for the next Michelangelo or Mozart, nor is it only about making an artistic masterpiece. Creativity is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened. It’s both a tool for productivity and a state of being that brings relaxation and happiness. It’s an ability to create something useful that solves a problem. It is a skill that’s developed through practice and dedication. It is active engagement in a pleasurable pursuit. Creativity is found where creative thinking skills, knowledge and motivation meet. Creativity lives in all of us. Even better, creativity does not decline with age. It’s yours – for life!
There’s an expression for that state of being when one is so involved in something that time seems to stand still: “being in the flow.” A flow state happens when one is so intensely focused on an activity that he or she feels peaceful, happy, completely engaged, and almost unaware of the surroundings.
The chance of experiencing flow increases when one is doing something personally enjoyable that is also somewhat challenging. The psychologist who coined the term “flow”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains why losing oneself in a creative activity is so important to well being: “the process of discovery involved in creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in.”
The Creativity and Aging Study, conducted cooperatively by the National Endowment for the Arts and George Washington University, showed that participants, average age of 80 years, who went to a weekly cultural program run by professional artists, showed better health, fewer doctor visits, better mental health and more active involvement in life than those in the control group. Taking a class that sparks ones creativity may deliver a whole lot more than what’s in the class description!
Creativity adds richness to life. Self-expression is revitalizing. According to actress Sophia Loren: “There is a fountain of youth; it is in your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”