By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
Do you find yourself craving a little creativity in your life? Turns out, tapping in to that creative energy can actually improve your overall health. It might sound too good to be true, but simply engaging in creative behaviors (even just coloring in those trendy adult coloring books) improves brain function, mental health, and physical health.
The theory of cognition postulates that being creative is actually a basis for human life. Basically, being creative is pretty important!
So how can playing music or doodling make you healthy? There are a few different ways. Let’s look at the various health benefits to creativity, and break it down from there.
- Increases happiness.
You’ve probably heard of flow — it’s the state you get in when you’re completely absorbed in something. Have you ever been working on a project and completely lost all sense of self and time? That’s flow. It reduces anxiety, boosts your mood, and even slows your heart rate.
It’s not just being in flow that helps your happiness. Repetitive creative motions like knitting, drawing, or writing help activate flow, and are all tasks that create a result. And when you succeed at creating a result, no matter what it is, your brain is flooded with dopamine, that feel-good chemical that actually helps motivate you. Whether or not you’re aware of your increased happiness, the hit of dopamine you get after being in flow will drive and influence you toward similar behavior.
2. Reduces dementia.
Creativity goes beyond just making you happy… It’s also an effective treatment for patients with dementia. Studies show that creative engagement not only reduces depression and isolation, but can also help people with dementia tap back in to their personalities and sharpen their senses.
3. Improves mental health.
The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.
Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, and stress… And it can also help you process trauma. Studies have found that writing helps people manage their negative emotions in a productive way, and painting or drawing helps people express trauma or experiences that they find too difficult to put in to words.
4. Boosts your immune system.
It’s time to start taking journaling seriously. Studies show people who write about their experiences daily actually have stronger immune system function. Although experts are still unsure how it works, writing increases your CD4+ lymphocyte count, the key to your immune system. Listening to music can also rejuvenate function in your immune system.
5. Makes you smarter.
Music lovers, this one’s for you. Studies show that people who play instruments have better connectivity between their left and right brains. The left brain is responsible for the motor functions, while the right brain focuses on melody. When the two hemispheres of your brain communicate with each other, your cognitive function improves.
It’s pretty amazing that doing the activities that make us feel good (see that dopamine rush) are genuinely good for us. Grab a pen and start writing, doodling, or coloring. Get your hands dirty with pottery or gardening. Listen to some music, or pick up an instrument. Whatever you decide to do, it’s time to start getting creative!
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