The Powerful Link Between Creativity and Mental Health

Bee Martinez
Sep 24, 2017 · 5 min read

By: Bee Martinez

Having a creative outlet gives you a way to express yourself, be productive, and to strengthen human bonds.

Photo of a person preparing to make a bouquet of flowers from Unsplash

Every person I’ve ever known is creative. My mom can cook a mean dish with a couple ingredients; every one of my siblings writes, a trait that comes from my father’s side; my husband is always making up a song in his head; I know people developing learning programs, people designing websites, teachers finding new ways of going around a subject, students creating a sneaky (really, mnemonic) way to learn it…

Being creative is not always about art, nor is it always about a product. It’s also about the how. Have you ever done something in a different way than you were supposed to? If yes, you are a creative person too.

Creativity Defined

Howard Gardner, pioneer of the Multiple Intelligences approach, defines intelligence as “the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings” (1983/2003).

Similarly, creativity is characterized by the capacity of producing new and valuable things; where new means to be taught of or discovered by someone, and value can be related to one or more of the following levels: elemental (personal), middle (social), or superior (universal).

We could say that creativity is the true measure of intelligence, and because creativity can be fostered, nurtured, and grown there are no limits to what can be achieved in the realm of creation, which is to say, intelligence.

Whatever your craft -The Element posed by Sir Ken Robinson- the way you uniquely solve (or even propose) problems within “the place where the things we love and the things we’re good at come together” is a manifestation of your creativity. It all depends on how further into it you allow yourself to go.

How do we become creative?

Creative people place themselves a short distance from their environment -they are bold. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily against anything; it’s simply that they are sensitive to things others are not, they are always “outside the box”, which allows them to be independent in their judgment and actions. Creativity is the dimension that integrates their personality.

Creativity is a personality trait that derives from a combination of nature and nurture. If you want to work on your creative traits, or foster them in those around you, keep the following into account:

Sources: image 1, image 2, image 3

Now that we know what it is and how to get there… what’s the benefit of being creative, anyways?

Creativity and self-expression

According to psychology, “sublimation” is the name for the (sometimes subconscious) transformational process our emotions go through when we create. Sublimation also applies to religious rituals and to certain types or moments of passionate work. It’s the socially accepted, even appreciated, way to express ourselves; the point between our impulses and what’s accepted from us in our environment.

Image of glasses on a laptop from Unsplash

An undeniable meditative quality takes place while creating. It might be taking or developing pictures, solving puzzles, be it through joining literal dots or through lines of code. Writing is a popular way of pouring out our feelings and thoughts: letters, journal entries, scribbles meant to be crumpled and tossed since the beginning, or even making a to-do list can help us clear our mind clutter.

It’s not always easy to put ideas into words, notes, or pictures. Some of us are not artists. For example, I really enjoy baking. In this case, it is more about the process: getting utensils ready, measuring, substituting ingredients, following step-by-step instructions, and having no option but to wait is what calms me down.

Creativity and fruitfulness

Keeping record of what we achieve every day is a good way to lift our spirits. Our mind is prone to believing absolutes and whatever is said, hence without concrete proof of performance it tends to go down a sour path at the minor provocation.

Photo of polaroid images on a table from Unsplash

We receive immediate pleasure when exercising creativity. When we figure out a new or more efficient way of connecting resources, choose a new outfit, or make a pun, we feel productive. Having a sense of purpose and reminding ourselves that what we do really matters is always helpful.

Think of it as another interpretation of the quote “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”: a hands-on approach to our emotions will help us understand, anchor and unravel the positive ones and sublime our darkness as well. And of course, learning something new is key to keeping our minds fit.

Creativity and the human bond

David Gauntlett states in his book that “Making is connecting”, and that there are powerful social dimensions made possible by online collaboration. Examples of this are: open source, remote working, and even this publication!

Events like flash mobs and yarn bombing may be more tangible. Doing something we enjoy and finding a community that will appreciate it and encourage it is one of the best feelings in the world. Mentors, friends, and community in general, will make or break our creative paths.

Photo of knitting supplies from Unsplash

Creations are not limited by the constraints of geography or time. When we create, we send a message in a bottle, a family recipe, a knitted heirloom, a home movie. When we revisit the creations made by the ones that came before us, we know there’s value in them. We know creativity connects us.

Just as “not thinking about it” or exercising can’t be a solution to all of our ailments, engaging in creative activities will not magically make us feel better at once. Creativity can, however, be a means to an end and give you a chance to articulate some of what worries you, yield fruits, and become part of a like-minded group. Added to a therapy program, perhaps within a pharmaceutical approach or with the help of technology, creativity can become a strategy to certainly improve our mental health.

Sources:

You can use our site if-me.org to share with loved ones your mental health experiences and plan out strategies to tackle them. We’re an open source organization run by volunteers.

if me

Open source mental health communication app to share your stories with loved ones. Available in several languages including Spanish! New contributors welcome 💜

Bee Martinez

Written by

24/7 Techie

if me

if me

Open source mental health communication app to share your stories with loved ones. Available in several languages including Spanish! New contributors welcome 💜

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade