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A fairly standard definition of creativity is the ability to produce novel (or original) ideas of value. Expressing those novel ideas in some form, bringing those ideas to life, is called “creative expression.” Too often, we confuse more general creative expression with artistic expression, which is but one form of creative expression. The result is that most of us do not consider ourselves creative. In the United States, for example, only 52% of people consider themselves creative, while that number drops to 36% in France and 19% in Japan. The truth is, however, that we are all creative or at least have the capacity for creativity.
You are living, breathing creativity
Science will agree that there is no other you in the universe. It is an incontrovertible fact that there is no other living being with the exact biological makeup (i.e., nature) and experience (i.e., nurture) that has shaped the individual you are becoming. Even if you believe in alternate universes, parallel universes, or multi-verses — or even if you have been cloned — all of those other versions of you will still be different in their experiences and, as a result, will be different from you. Your experiences shape who you are, and it is simply impossible to replicate your life experiences exactly as they have happened to you. You, therefore, are one-of-a-kind: a new and original idea, the likes of which have never been seen before and will never be seen after your life. That your life has intrinsic value goes without saying. You, therefore, are living, breathing creativity. The challenge is understanding how you express your creativity.
There are two general forms of creative expression: direct creative expression and indirect creative expression. Direct creative expression includes all forms of art and communication where you are intentionally conveying some idea or message. Indirect creative expression includes your lifestyle, how you act and how you choose to live. Your entire life is an exercise in creative expression. Everything you do and say carries with it some underlying truth, either directly or indirectly, based on your unique perspective. When you are mindful and intentional in your daily life, the choices you make are an exercise in creative expression. Being creative, therefore, includes being mindful and intentional in your daily life and the choices you make — i.e., what you wear, what you eat, the words you choose, how you exercise (or don’t), your spiritual practices, etc. In other words, creative expression is a practice in mindfulness where you are in the present moment. It is no wonder that the science-proven benefits of creativity overlap with the science-proven benefits of mindfulness.
Science-proven benefits of creative expression
“Being creative can increase positive emotions, reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety, and improve the function of our immune systems.” The same health benefits can be attributed to the practice of mindfulness. That is, focusing on your creativity is associated with “higher activated positive affect,” including increased joy and happiness. According to the American Heart Association, happiness actually not only improves your mental health, but it can also lead to significant improvements in your physical health as well. In fact, “up to 80% of visits to primary care doctors are due to conditions that are caused or exacerbated by unmanaged stress.” Therefore, by reducing stress and improving your overall mental state, focusing on your creativity will also improve your physical health.
Creativity is also associated with a “flow state.” Being in a state of “flow” is akin to being in the zone, where you are completely immersed in an activity, and time seems to cease to exist. Flow is similar to mindfulness in that you are completely in the moment (creativity, flow, mindfulness, happiness — they are all related). Of course, achieving a state of flow has similar health benefits.
In addition, using your creativity can be therapeutic and a means of alleviating trauma, dealing with addictions and various other mental illnesses. According to board-certified art therapist Lauren Deaven, “engaging your creativity is a cathartic, healing act partly because your attention and focus are in the present moment, much like during meditation … Art therapy uses the inherent benefits of creativity as a tool to bolster mental health.”
Finally, while there are many science-proven health benefits to creativity, perhaps the most compelling benefit of pursuing your creativity is that it will lead to you fulfilling your life’s purpose. The idea that your life serves a particular purpose means that there is some value that you are meant to provide to this world that only you are capable of providing. After all, if your purpose could be fulfilled by someone else, then that purpose could not be the reason you were specifically born (serving a purpose in life that is not unique to you is not the same as serving your specific life purpose). Your creativity — your original ideas and works of value — is the one thing that only you can bring to this world. Your life purpose, therefore, must be rooted in your creativity. That is, fulfilling your life purpose (i.e., providing the world with some value that only you can provide) will come from your creative expression.