Creative Child

The Mind-Blowing Link Between Happiness and Creativity

by Rebecca Eanes on Aug 30th, 2016

Nurturing your child’s creativity will likely help her live a more fulfilling, happier life. More and more research is emerging on the link between happiness and creativity, and what researchers are finding is astounding. If ever you shuddered at the mess and noise of your child’s creative endeavors – the drawings strewn across the house, the paint that spilled on the kitchen table, the ear-splitting sounds of the recorder – take heart; she’s gaining greater well-being, relieving stress, and building confidence. In fact, it will do you some good to grab a paint brush and join in, because as it turns out, we could all use a little more creativity in our lives.

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But is there a best way to be creative? Research suggests that self-driven creativity has a greater impact on our well being than pressured or extrinsically motivated productivity. As researchers Michael W. Ceci and V.K. Kumar state in their study, “Intrinsically motivated creative individuals are possibly happier than extrinsically motivated creative individuals. Extrinsically motivated individuals may carry more negative affect and experience stress while engaged in creative tasks.”

In other words, we can’t force our kids to be creative; it’s something we allow them to explore and nurture as it grows.

The visual arts, such as drawing and painting, appear to have particular benefit in lowering stress and increasing psychological resilience. One study found that images of art actually activate reward-related regions of the brain. This explains why adult coloring books have become so popular, and why it might do us good to spend more time coloring with our children, especially in the evening hours before bed as it can promote relaxation and better sleep.

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It isn’t just the visual arts that provide benefits. This study found that music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing all had positive effects on health and promote healing. Music was shown to calm neural activity in the brain which may reduce anxiety and increased immunity. Art gives us a way to express ourselves in ways words cannot. Movement-based creative expression such as dance has physical as well as psychological benefits, including word recall and increased self-esteem. Expressive writing (journaling deep thoughts, feelings, and emotions) has been shown to reduce depression and lessen pain severity.

Finally, it appears that creatively working with our hands in projects such as gardening, woodworking, and knitting, also boosts happiness by way of decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression. The repetitive routine allows our minds to rest and may help us to enter “flow,” a state in which we become fully absorbed in a task, losing track of time. Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of positive psychology, studied this flow state and discovered higher self-esteem, engagement, and greater long-term happiness as a result of being in flow.

Tips for nurturing your child's happiness and creativity on page 2...

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