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Studies Agree: Creativity Makes Us Feel Good

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This article is not medical advice. If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

“Creativity,” according to the APA Psychology Dictionary, “is the ability to produce or develop original works, theories, techniques, or thoughts. A creative individual usually demonstrates originality, imagination and expressiveness. Generator of inspiration, creativity is good for health and well-being, especially in the face of the anxieties undergone in recent years.

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Painting, crafts, coloring, molding a clay ball or making music, all forms of creativity help “focus the mind and have even been compared to meditation because of its calming effects on the brain and body. “Ashley Stahl said in Forbes. , July 25, 2018. “Even gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural antidepressant. The wonder of creativity springs from the brain, involving multiple neural networks.

Scientific studies suggest that three brain networks provide the teamwork for creativity, the default mode network, the executive control network, and the salience network.

“The default mode network is what happens in the brain in a resting state (but not asleep), the waking state of the brain,” said Dr. Grant H. Brenner in “Your Brain on Creativity “, Psychology Today, February 22. , 2018. Directing decision-making, “The executive control network monitors what’s going on, manages the emotional parts of the brain (and) directs resources like attention. The third network, the salience network, “determines what kinds of things tend to be noticed and which tend to go unnoticed,” Brenner added.

By working together, brain networks generate and evaluate ideas and select worthwhile ones from among many options. Studies suggest that creativity might run in families, and that children are inspired by watching others be creative; unstructured play leads to creativity. Best of all, each individual has the potential for creativity.

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The researchers found “dense functional connections” scattered throughout the frontal and parietal cortices, Brenner said. The areas identified “are hubs for different networks including, for example, the left posterior cingulate for the default mode, the left anterior insula for salience, and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for executive networks.” Brain activity linked to creativity led to the field of art therapy.

Studies have long shown that artistic endeavors can act as an intervention for depression and anxiety and improve an overall sense of well-being. The emerging field of neuroesthetics “uses brain imaging, brain wave technology, and biofeedback to gather scientific evidence of how we respond to the arts,” Brittany Harker Martin, associate professor, leadership, policy and governance with specializing in arts education at the University of Calgary. , said in “Brain research shows the arts promote mental health” in The Conversation. The findings point to evidence “that the arts engage the mind in new ways, tap into our emotions in healthy ways, and make us feel good.”

Focusing on creativity without judgment can help people cope with illnesses and chronic stress. With art, cancer patients and others with illnesses and conditions can express their feelings through painting or sculpture when no words can express their anguish or their hopes.

In Canada, art therapy became part of the healthcare system in 1968 with the creation of the first training program at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute. Professional art therapists guide various clients to greater well-being through creativity and psychotherapy. (In the United States, art therapy began with psychologist Margaret Naumberg in the 1940s. Naumberg called her program “dynamically oriented art therapy.”)

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“In healthy adults, certain solitary activities, such as coloring, can help reduce stress and negative feelings,” said Girija Kaimal in “How Art Can Heal,” American Scientist, July issue. August 2020. She noted that an art therapist can help the process “dramatically improve positive mood and boost measures of well-being, such as self-confidence and self-perception of creative abilities.”

Kaimal noted that caregivers with burnout also feel better after doing art. “Many responded that the experience distracted them from their day-to-day concerns and allowed them to focus elsewhere,” and that “this was the first time that some participants had the chance to deal with the psychological and existential challenges of combating Cancer”. Afterwards, they proudly took their artwork home or to their workplace “and often can’t believe they did.”

Art in the classroom has remarkable benefits, although it is not yet a priority. As part of the curriculum, art increases “academic performance and the development of innovative thinking,” Harker Martin said. Artistic creation can create a state of mindfulness and makes it easier to use different parts of the brain compared to using linear and logical thinking.

Giving suggestions for mindfulness through artistic creation, Martin says he is “willing to make mistakes”, to let the logical and linear parts of the brain rest by not speaking too much during creation and playing music without words. . She suggests that reusable materials are a good choice, such as whiteboards and markers, or modeling clay, so that the creation can be enjoyed without having to worry about doing something “that looks good.” “.

Immerse yourself in the rainbow of paint, move your body to music, and sculpt this smiling puppet character in your imagination. Whichever art form you choose, “the neurochemicals that are released feel great, and that’s how your brain thanks you for the experience,” noted Martin. Cooking, making fabric arts, planting seeds… art is good for mental health, good for physical health and good for the soul.

Susanna McLeod is a writer living in Kingston. One skit a day keeps the grumpy away.

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