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Creativity and Happiness – Being in the Flow

It’s no secret that creative expression is linked to happiness. In 1996, Robert Epstein published an article in Psychology Today titled “Capturing Creativity” where he explained that the creative process is a joy in an of itself: that “greater creativity breeds greater happiness” (Epstein 1996). And “significant creativity”, he argues, is within everyone’s reach.

So what exactly does the term “creativity” mean? And how to we use it to find more joy in our own lives?

It’s not a scientific term, but in general, creativity is the process by which something new or novel is formed that gives value to a person or community. The generation of new ideas, theories, artwork, compositions, solutions, etc. Being creative includes everything, then, from designing an architectural masterpiece to reorganizing the kitchen shelves. As long as it’s a new idea (or a new combination of old ideas) and gives value to our lives, it counts.

Creativity can lead to a psychological state often termed as “flow”. Being in the flow is the state of total absorption and concentration in an activity, where a person is lost, so to speak, in a particular occupation. When we write, paint, sculpt – create­ – and forget about the world and our own egos, we are in the flow. This state is linked to feelings of satisfaction, curiosity, love, and joy. It gives us confidence that we can solve problems, boosts our resilience, and makes us feel open and alive.

There are specific ways we can increase creativity in our own lives and heighten that sense of joy in the everyday. Try the following and take notice how it affects your sense of well-being:

Keep a journal – Or a sketchpad, or a memo log, or a photo album on your smartphone. Capture your ideas. Most writers or artists will tell you that their best ideas pop up in the middle of the night, or on a bus, or in a grocery store line. Anywhere other than sitting in front of their easel or computer screen. Get in the habit of recording any and all ideas that inspire you (words, images, etc.)

Get uncomfortable – One of the best ways to boost your own creativity is to challenge yourself, and the best way to do that is to get into a situation that is difficult for you. Think about something you fear, or a project you’ve been putting off. If it makes you uneasy, it’s probably perfect. Try different approaches to solve the problem. Think of lots of possible solutions, and take note that an unsuccessful behavior typically gets weaker, thereby eliminating options that won’t work. The point is, frustration and fear is the well-spring for creativity. Use it to your advantage. Learn to look forward to feelings of frustration as opportunities.

Learn something new – Take a course in something you know nothing about. Let yourself really get into it. Find someone you can teach it to. Broadening your perspective always inspires creative thought and endeavors.

Make new friends – Specifically, find other creative people to surround yourself with. Go to a writer’s group or a book reading, join an artist’s club, find a community band. Creativity can work like osmosis, inspiring you upon contact.

Play – Games are one of the best ways to spur your own creativity. They require problem solving and often put you in contact with others to collaborate and put new ideas together. Whether its playing house with your children or role playing with your husband, its good for your brain and, in the end, your happiness.

So when you have a few moments and think, like me, that doing the laundry is more important than sitting down at that (dusty) piano, reconsider. A few minutes at that piano might make all the difference to your day.

The Joys of Gardening