Creating A Positive State of Mind

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Maybe life these days feels like riding on an emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs coming faster and faster; sometimes all in the same day. If you are feeling blue or emotionally exhausted try writing a poem, sing, paint or even doodle. Exercising your creativity every day will improve your outlook and promote positive wellbeing.

A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that engaging in a creative activity just once a day can lead to a more positive state of mind. Researchers at the University of Otago studied the impact of creativity on one’s emotional well-being, based on the growing belief that there is a connection between creativity and emotional functioning. Participants in the study documented how much time they spent on creative activities as well as the positive and negative emotional changes they perceived.

An ‘upward spiral for well-being and creativity’ was discovered in those individuals who engaged in daily creative pastimes. The researchers also examined participant data from a “flourishing scale” that ranked responses to various questions such as “Today my social relationships were supportive and rewarding.” These rankings correlated to creative engagement, implying that creativity impacts both happiness in social relationships and positivity in the workplace.

Historically speaking, pictures, stories, dances and chants have long been the center of healing rituals. Creative expression in the healing process has been embraced in many different cultures since the dawn of humanity. The benefits of the arts in healing have long been known. However, up until recent times, there has not been much empirical research to validate these beliefs. Now, study after study is showing the positive results of the arts and creative expression as an integral part of the healing process.

In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, ‘The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health.’  Researchers analyzed more than 100 studies that explored the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and health outcomes. The studies included everything from music and writing to dance and the visual arts. Some of the findings from these studies described the impact of creative activities on more than 30 patients who battled chronic illness and cancer. Research showed improved wellbeing through decreased negative emotion and reduced depression, stress and anxiety. 

There are many resources to inspire creative actions every day including Noah Scalin’s ‘365 method’ and Keri Smith’s irreverent ‘Journal’ series. Creative engagement doesn’t mean time in front of a blank canvas with paints and a black beret. Expressing one’s creativity can be designing a garden, customizing a bike or car, cooking a new dish, or doodling on napkins and scraps of paper. In other words, activities that anyone can do. Once-a-day creative actions provide a measurable boost in our outlook, helping us feel better and improving our wellbeing.  That is something we all could use. Give it a try – there is nothing to lose and so much to gain!

This article appeared in the Silver City Daily Press as part of the New Mexico Department of Health’s “Wishing You Well” series of contributed articles promoting healthy lifestyles.   – Reprinted with permission.