What can creativity possibly have to do with health? If you aren’t sure, then you should absolutely read this blog to the end. If you do, you won’t just get an answer to this question, but you will also learn whether it is possible to boost your own creativity, and how you can do so.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
- Albert Einstein -
What is creativity? And can I learn to be creative?
Every single one of us has their own understanding of creativity. What’s yours? Do you see “only” the works of “real” artists as creative, or does your definition of creativity also cover very different areas of life? It’s also highly possible that you’re struggling to define creativity to yourself, or that you’ve never even thought about it. Researchers, too, have also attempted to define creativity many times. As so often happens, such definitions vary, sometimes hugely, sometimes by very little, which makes it very difficult to reach a uniform understanding. Researcher Chetan Walia thought so too, which is why he tried to create an overview of the definition of creativity in his work. He established that most definitions of creativity agree on four components:
- Creativity is a key ability of individuals.
- Creativity presumes an intentional activity (process).
- The creative process occurs in a specific context (environment).
- The creative process entails the generation of products (tangible or intangible). These products must be innovative (original, unconventional), for the creative person at least, and in some degree valuable/useful.
In addition, it is assumed that the creative process is quite structured and works in a similar way for everyone. There are phases in which you are very busy with a task or problem. In addition, there are also dormant phases (called incubation), in which you are not dealing with creativity directly. Interestingly, it is in the dormant phases that the real processing occurs. At this time, external stimuli and information put into contact with the “problem” and checked for whether they could contribute to the solution. This can also be ascertained using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. What are known as rest networks in the brain are active when you are not consciously thinking. Maybe having your best ideas in the shower or when you’re doing sport is something you have experienced?
The above components and the creativity process sound really rather complex. The Oxford English Dictionary defines creativity as the faculty of being creative; ability or power to create. Being creative can also essentially be understood as finding solutions. This means that the solutions are what has been newly created and very different “problems” may underpin them (e.g., tackling complex tasks at work or combating boredom).
Thankfully, you can deduce from the above components that anyone and everyone can be creative. So, if up till now you have had the feeling that you aren’t creative, and that’s just how it is, you stand corrected! Many experts agree that everyone has the creative potential within them. While some people may certainly have somewhat more basic creativity than others, everyone can boost their own creativity with practice. Creativity is much more a desire than an ability, or that’s what researchers think. So the question is not “Are you creative?” but rather “Would you like to be creative?”
Creativity and health
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has evaluated 900 studies that investigated the link between creative occupations and health. The creative occupations investigated include: the performing arts (activities in music, theatre, dance, singing and film), literature (e.g., reading, writing, attending literary events), visual arts/crafts (e.g., photography, painting), culture (e.g., visiting museums and exhibitions or going to concerts or the theatre) and digital/electronic art (e.g., computer graphics and animations). They concluded that these creative activities may benefit both mental and physical health. However, the effects can be divided into two areas: prevention and health promotion, and treating and overcoming illness. In terms of prevention, creative activities may support child development, promote healthy behaviours (a balanced diet, physical activity), contribute to preventing diseases and support the care of relatives. They may strengthen social ties and act to combat cognitive decline in old age. With regard to treating and overcoming illness, creative occupations may help to surmount difficult or complex health challenges, which may include conditions such as diabetes, obesity or mental illnesses. We can assume that an occupation with creative activities increases both wellbeing and happiness, which then give our health a further boost. Likewise, such activities may reduce stress and anxiety, and increase your feelings of self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-confidence. You can surely imagine that these aspects are also a boost to health (and primarily mental health). The indications that creative occupations in therapy may lead to greater adherence are also encouraging. This means that the people affected stick to their treatments better and stay on them for longer.
If you want to learn more about this WHO report, you can find it here.
Creativity in the workplace
In the professional context, you hear ever more frequently that innovation and creativity are central to company success. Employees are increasingly expected to think creatively and innovatively. Senior managers are seeing their colleagues’ creativity more and more as an existential resource. Consequently, creativity seems important not just in isolated areas (artistic or creative professions), but is coming increasingly under the spotlight in other fields. Maybe you have already heard your line manager saying that they wanted more creativity and innovation in a certain situation? Or maybe you would like to become more creative in your work process?
Stress, time pressure and too little personal autonomy are all creativity killers. This means that you should under no circumstances subject yourself to too much pressure, or let others do so. Creative processes are much more likely to succeed if you give them enough space. Are you wondering how that works? It couldn’t be simpler: take a break! Breaks are crucial at work, not only because they give your creativity enough space, but they also improve your all-round performance. Take some time and deliberately integrate some breaks into your working day. For example, a short walk in the open air really is just the thing. It will help you to relax and will make space for your thoughts. You can find more information about break time in our blog post “Take a break!”.
You can also consciously boost your creativity using specific techniques. Methods such as brainstorming or mind-mapping are very well known. However, experts have developed over 200 other techniques – and techniques that are fun to implement are particularly effective. One of these is the headstand method. Imagine you have to optimise a process or organise a company stand at a trade fair. Instead of looking for ideas or solutions as best you can, you turn the task around and instead, you ask yourself: What would make the process more difficult? What should the stand absolutely not look like?
You can find an introduction to other creativity techniques here. Likewise, you can apply the tips and tricks from the next paragraph, “Everyday creativity”, to your professional life, or combine them. Decide for yourself what suits you best and appeals to you most.
To boost creativity at work, it is important that senior managers also think about how they can change the working environment to encourage staff creativity. Creativity needs space to breathe, and the openness and courage to make changes – on both sides.
There are many opportunities for boosting your creativity in your free time too. Maybe you already have some creative hobbies? Or would you like to take up a new hobby that will enhance your creativity? Then we want to give you the ideas below. In addition, you will also get some tips for how you can arrange your daily routines and habits to benefit your creativity.
Tips, ideas and suggestions
- Ask yourself: do I give myself enough space to be creative?
- What activities have you always wanted to try some day, but never had the resources? Did you want to paint? Play the piano? Write poems or stories? Plant a garden or do a pottery course? Remember your old dreams or wishes. Is the time now ripe to make them happen? New hobbies may boost your creativity. Get some inspiration from the courses offered by Migros Club School.
- Creativity researchers assume that creativity builds on knowledge, experience and insight. Reading is a tried-and-trusted method of expanding your knowledge. This doesn’t have to mean reading books – you can also expand your knowledge by reading magazines, newspapers or websites (of course, the quality of these media plays a certain role here). What have you always been interested in? What have you long wanted to learn more about? Seize your next opportunity and find out more.
- Visit places you have never been to before. You frequently won’t need to go abroad for this. What places (cities, municipalities) are there near you that you have never seen?
- Write down your thoughts: We discussed the benefits of Journalling in a recent blog post on Gratitude. Writing down your thoughts on paper may also help you to be creative. When you are facing challenges (personal or professional), write them down. Give your thoughts free rein and see what happens. Have your thought processes changed?
- The next time you go for a walk, or on a daytrip, make a point of taking photos of particular subjects that catch your eye. Look at the photos at home again, and if you want to, do something with them. Print out the images that you especially like, and hang them on the wall or put them in an album.
- Do you enjoying cooking, but mostly make the same menus again and again? Is this because you just don’t have the time to try new things? So try a new recipe some time. You can also create your own menu without a recipe, or pep up your favourite food with some new ingredients.
- What are your other habits and routines that you could simply do differently for once? Over the next few days, pay attention to what actions you do every day out of habit, and think about how you could do them differently. This could be just small things. Do you always take the same route to work, or back home? Then deliberately choose another route tomorrow. Do you always work from home in the same spot? If you can, change your workspace from time to time.
Remember: creativity does not mean that every new idea you have or every action you do must be ground-breaking. Discarding many ideas is a part of it. So don’t let this discourage you. It's all about creating something for yourself. Be open, be courageous!
Fancourt, D., & Finn, S. (2019). What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review. World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe.
Gelléri, P., Garda, I., & Winter, C. (2011). Kreativität im beruflichen Kontext. In P. Gelléri & C. Winter (Eds.), Potenziale der Personalpsychologie: Einfluss personaldiagnostischer Massnahmen auf den Berufs- und Unternehmenserfolg (S. 165-176). Hogrefe.
Groll, T. (2010, October). Kreativität ist lernbar. Zeit Online. https://www.zeit.de/karriere/beruf/2010-09/kreativtechniken-uebersicht?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F
Wadhawan, J. (2015, March). Mach mal Platz: Wie Kreativität auch im Alltag fliesst. Absatzwirtschaft - Zeitschrift für Marketing. https://www.absatzwirtschaft.de/mach-mal-platz-wie-kreativitaet-auch-im-alltag-fliesst-45783/
Walia, C. (2019). A dynamic definition of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 31(3), 237-247. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2019.1641787
Wegweiser für psychische Gesundheit Kanton Bern. (o.D.). Kreativität steckt in uns allen. https://www.psy.ch/de/wegweiser/gesund-bleiben/8-kreatives-tun-47.html