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Using Your “Creativity Muscle” Helps You Live Long and Happy

In the new year, I challenge you to regularly exercise…but not just in the traditional sense. I also want you to exercise your creativity.

Try something outrageous. Build. Play. Make something new.

And when I say “creativity,” I’m not referring to “artistry.” When most people think of creativity, they envision painters, musicians, illustrators, etc. But this ability is equally necessary in any line of work.

What it really boils down to is the ability to solve a problem or present a perspective in an original way. Creativity presents something that—when in the right setting—is novel, relevant, useful, or influential.

So really, everyone is creative in their own right.

And there’s plenty of research that supports the importance of creativity, especially when it comes to your health.

The physical benefits of exercising your creative muscle

 

In 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, researchers observed 1,400 older male military veterans. They found that creativity decreased mortality rate by 12 percent.

Interestingly, creativity was also a much more significant predictor of longevity than other personal traits like intelligence or open-mindedness.

The lead study author, Nicholas Turiano, theorizes that this is due to the fact that creativity exercises specific brain networks, even well into old age. Parts of the brain like:

  • Non-verbal memory: Your ability to store and recover information about things like faces, sounds, songs, smells, and feelings
  • Executive processes: Your working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control

Turiano also noted, “Keeping the brain healthy may be one of the most important aspects of aging successfully—a fact shown by creative persons living longer in our study.”

But the benefits of creativity go beyond brain health. The researchers also found that creative-minded people are able to process stress in a healthy way. And as we all know, stress is perhaps one of the most dangerous health hazards, especially for our cognitive, cardiovascular, and immune health.

The mental benefits of creating

 

The practice of being creative offers emotional and mental benefits as well.

For instance, in a 2010 review published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies on the impact of art in relation to health and healing.

The studies examined the effects of engaging in a variety of creative arts including music, writing, dance, and visual arts (painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles). And each study involved more than 30 patients battling chronic illness and cancer.

The researchers described the impact these creative endeavors had on the patients:

  • “Improved well-being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones”
  • “Improved medical outcomes, trends toward reduced depression”
  • “Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions”
  • “Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”

And I can certainly vouch for these benefits personally.

Why I make the time

 

Over the years, I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of carving out time for creativity.

I aim to set aside at least three to five hours a week strictly to create. Occasionally, I’ll invite my family, friends, or bandmates to create with me. But I’ve found that no matter who I’m with, or what I’m working on, this time for creation has become deeply important to my health and happiness.

That’s because when I choose to create something, I invest time and energy into something I can control (my thoughts and actions) and away from things I can’t (the world, people, my future).

When I’m in this “creative zone,” I sometimes focus intently on one particular project—like working on a new song, a poem, or a Sound Health article (like the one you’re reading right now).

Sometimes creating is purely for the sake of working my brain’s creative “muscle.”

And when my creation comes to fruition (and if I choose to share it with others), I “release it” out into the world.

Maybe people like it, maybe not. And that’s okay. Once I “let it go”, I can’t control what happens next.

Instead, I’m content with the fact that I’ve added another piece of my soul to my life’s work. And what excites me even more? I get to start all over on something else next! Creating is full of infinite possibility…

Getting your creative juices flowing

 

The one thing I know for sure is this: A creative idea won’t ever come to fruition until you give it regular attention.

So are you ready to start creating something great?

Dr. Robert Epstein, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, recently discovered that if you make a habit of strengthening four core skill sets, your creativity will thrive. Get your creative juices flowing by regularly practicing the following:

  1. Record new ideas. Capture them any way you want. Keep a small notebook with you, use the voice memo app on your smart phone, keep a document on your computer, or even write them down on a napkin.
  2. Purposely seek out challenging tasks. Take on things that don’t necessarily have a clear-cut solution. This will cause your brain to think differently and formulate more brain cells.
  3. Never stop learning. Sign up for a class, watch a documentary, or read a book on something you’ve always wanted to know more about. This gives you a more expansive encyclopedia of knowledge to pull from, which, Epstein says, “is the basis of all creative thought.”
  4. Surrounding yourself with things, people, and places that intrigue you. Draw inspiration from museums, see a show, have dinner with friends from diverse backgrounds, or strike up a conversation with someone who just looks interesting. Essentially, do something outside of your norm.

With these four steps, you should find inspiration to create in no time.

The main takeaway for today is this: The process of creating—no matter what you’re making—is good for you, both mentally and physically.

Our daily routines can often get us stuck in habit of doing the same monotonous tasks over and over. Rarely is our brain challenged to do or learn something completely new or out of our comfort zone.

In today’s society—a culture of consumption—we’re so caught up in liking photos, watching videos, reading articles, and sharing things. Ironically, we’ve become too busy consuming the creations of others rather than creating something of our very own to put out into the world.

So this year, shake things up!

I challenge you to get creative and create! Take your mind off of your stressors and shift your focus toward something enjoyable that can enrich your life (and maybe even the lives of others!).

What are you inspired to put out into the world? Leave a comment on our Sound Health Facebook page. I’d love to hear what ideas you’re cooking up.

Now get to creating!

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