the power of creativity in improving well-being

The Power of Creativity in Improving Well-Being


As humans, we have an innate desire to create and express ourselves in various ways. From art and music to writing and cooking, creativity is a fundamental aspect of what makes us humans. But did you know that creativity can also have a positive impact on our well-being?

Before we tap into how creativity affects our well-being, let’s talk about the various levels of creativity. We can be creative at any stage of our lives and can be practiced at any level. Dr. James C. Kaufman and Dr. Ronald Beghetto have identified the four developmental levels of creativity.

Levels of the Four C Model of Creativity:

The Mini-c:
This level of creativity is the initial developmental phase where the creative endeavour might seem insignificant but can be a start of a great journey ahead. In this level, the creativity is sparked by intrinsic motivation and mostly kept within oneself. For instance, a child putting together his first lego object. Even though it seems trivial, but it sparks curiosity in that child and starts to wonder about what else could be created and built using these lego pieces. This leads to generation of more ideas.

The Little-c:
Little-c is a step further from the mini-c creativity. In this phase, the creator decides to share the creations with others in search of feedback. Whatever is created is not only kept to oneself but also shared with others to gain new insights and feedback. For example, a young talent who has recently dabbled into digital painting and have been creating pieces of art on the ipad. The little-c level of creativity is demonstrated when the artist decides to share the paintings with others, excited to hear the positive feedback and any suggestions for improvement.

The Pro-c:
Pro-c, as the name suggests, refers to creativity pursued at a professional level. This could involve having proper training and education to develop the creative skills and engaging in professional opportunities to demonstrate the skills. A good example of the pro-c level of creativity is a music producer who have the right set of training, practise and education to produce music for a living. The creativity is not only initiated through intrinsic motivation but also has a certain degree of extrinsic motivation.

The Big-c:
The big-c level of creativity involves creating lasting impact to a much larger scale and transforming the entire landscape of a certain creative domain. Examples of big-c creativity include famous artists like Van Gogh and Picasso, renowned musicians like Mozart and Beethoven, and influential writers like Shakespeare and Jane Austen.

Regardless of age, stage in life or the level at which we practise or engage in creative behaviour, there is evidence that it helps improve our well-being. Numerous studies have shown that engaging in creative activities can promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall mood. Whether it's painting, pottery, or playing an instrument, the act of creating can be therapeutic and provide a sense of fulfillment.

But creativity doesn't just benefit our emotional well-being. It can also have a positive impact on our cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that engaging in creative activities can improve memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. It can also increase neural connectivity in the brain and improve overall brain functions.

I have had discussions with a lot of people, particularly the seniors, and they believe that their brains are no longer able to think creatively. I used to agree with this notion until I read about neuroplasticity. It refers to the structural changes to our brain through developing new neural connections that enhances our divergent thinking abilities. Research has shown that consuming new learning and information helps to build new neural connections at any point in our lives. Our creative instincts are not associated with our age, rather our desire to develop and practise it daily.

So what is well-being, exactly? The American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology defines it as “a state of happiness and contentment, with low levels of distress, overall good physical and mental health and outlook, or good quality of life.” The concept of well-being shares its deep roots in the field of positive psychology. It is a state of contentment, growth and fulfilment, An experience of life which creates meaning.

Defining wellness on a more positive realm doesn’t imply that there is not going to be any mental disturbances. It doesn’t mean that there is not going to be any stress or frustrations in anyone’s life. Even the process of creativity is not always 100% positive and there are challenges in a creative journey. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, renowned author of the book “Flow”, is the pioneer of the concept of flow state defined as the fully engaged state while involved in something meaningful and worthwhile. He quotes in his book:

Without challenge, life had no meaning.

Well-being is mostly associated with happiness and it should also be highly associated with fulfilment, meaning and purpose. I believe that a happy person, without a meaningful goal, is much more likely to suffer unhappiness in the long run rather than someone who lives with a worthwhile purpose.

This is what creativity is meant to do for us. It enables us to be more curious and motivates us to get involved in solving meaningful problems and challenges. Complex challenges imply distress, frustrations and emotions of confusion. However, as long as there is a goal to go after, these negative emotions are going to be temporary. The happiness and fulfilment that we can obtain from working towards a goal, is much more likely to maintain our well-being and keeps us energized throughout the entire life.

Creativity is deeply rooted and linked to the cognitive aspect of our lives. The Instrumental Emotion Regulation (IER) theory, points out how our emotions relates to our well-being. Positive emotions of happiness, fulfilment, contentment, and gratitude ensures our positive well-being. These are the emotions that we can evoke by engaging in the creative process. When we find ourselves fully engaged in working towards an endeavour, it allows us to broaden our creative thinking. The more challenges we are involved in, the more it allows our minds to expand, diverge and generate novel and useful ideas. This signifies that creativity and well-being are positively correlated.

Creativity is a powerful tool that can help us improve our well-being in numerous ways. By engaging in creative activities, we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognitive function, develop essential skills, and find meaning and purpose in our lives. So why not make creativity a regular part of our routine and see the positive impact it can have on our well-being?