What does being creative mean to you? Is it about finding the time to sit down with a sketchbook and draw your latest imaginings? Are you the kind who plays an instrument in a jam band on weekends? Or do you spend your spare hours immersed in the theater scene? However you define “creativity,” there’s no denying the fact that being creative adds spice to our lives — plus, if you actively make the time to pursue creative ventures, you may find that your own personal happiness will grow. Fostering your creative side both gives you a cathartic outlet and an escape from the tedium of everyday life, and now science is proving that it can help boost your mood, too.

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This isn’t saying that you have to be an artist, per se. It doesn’t matter if you were born without perfect pitch or unable to draw anything more than stick figures. Instead, being creative is something that comes instinctively to all of us — you just have to determine what your channel is. And as extra good news, you also don’t need to be constantly sad or depressed to tap into your creative side — it seems that just as creativity breeds happiness, so do happier people become more creative. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle that can go a long way towards helping you find satisfaction in your personal and professional life.

Let’s take a look at how creativity at work and play makes you a happier individual, and just what science is saying about it.

Why Happiness (And Not Sadness) Breeds Creativity

Showing off one’s creative side comes so easily to children — just think about any paint-splattered masterpieces on construction paper that get taped to household fridges! When you’re a kid, you don’t focus on technique, or perfection, or specific methods — you just make stuff. And it’s stuff you’re indisputably proud of. For most young children, creating things is one of the highlights of their day, and has the ability to bring them profound happiness.

But once you reach adulthood, the idea of putting aside time in the day to be creative can fall by the wayside. And no wonder — it’s easily to be bogged down by the rigors of the everyday. Sometimes it can feel like you’re stuck in the same old pattern, like Groundhog Day — get up, go to work, do your job, come home, go to bed, repeat. If you’re left with no spare time or energy to devote to indulging your creative side, then you can end up feeling drained and boxed in. There’s no time to work on your passions when these reports are due, right?

Now, popular culture would have you believe that this is the perfect time to harness your creative powers — when you’re down on life and feeling constrained. After all, when we think of some of the most well-known artists of our times, many of them suffered from depression, mental illnesses, and general boredom. This idea of the tortured artist may be pervasive, but here’s the thing — in reality, indulging your creative side has the ability to bring you happiness, not pull you further down. What the apocryphal stories of doomed artists aren’t showing you is that for the vast majority of people, creativity actually brightens your life, as well as fulfilling deep inner impulses to generate new and exciting things — be they physical objects or innovative ways to solve issues.

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The Scientific Method

It may come as no surprise that scientific research has proven that creativity is linked to happiness. A team at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro published a report in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts that described an experiment undertaken with college students: They were studied for a week to see how their moods correlated with what tasks they were undertaking at the time. Turns out that many of the participants reported that they felt happier when they were doing something creative — thus busting the myth of the sad loner pouring their soul into their artwork. Says an article on the research: “Interestingly, the researchers found no evidence that negative states such as sadness, anger, or anxiety had any effect on the likelihood of engaging in creative behavior. The stereotype of a neurotic person ‘seeking solace in creativity was clearly not supported in this study,’ they write.”

These findings are echoed by a well-circulated online article from Greatist, titled The Scientific Reasons Why Being Creative Can Make You Happier. In it, the author states the following: “Key components of the creative personality, like novelty-seeking and perseverance, are also good predictors of life satisfaction. And it works both ways: People also tend to be most creative when they’re in a good mood, possibly because they don’t fixate on individual pieces of information and are able to think more broadly.” In other words, you can’t see the forest for the trees when you’re bogged down with negativity. Instead, being happy frees your mind to see all different sides of things, which can go a long way for things like creative problem-solving and coming up with innovative ideas and solutions.

Lastly, Psychology Today takes a clinical look at “happiness factors” that can boost our lives and our moods, and determines that creativity through the arts has been having a positive effect on human beings for ages:

“The concept of flow points to two happiness factors that have enhanced human life for thousands of years via the arts. One is the capacity to find joy in creativity through the pleasure of invention and exploration. This capacity is based in evolutionary biology to ensure survival of individuals and communities through innovation. The other is the ability to get pleasure and relaxation from creating useful, yet aesthetic objects; this is a form of rejuvenation that is not only practical, but also health-enhancing.”

So no matter whether you’re making something new, working on a creative project that makes you happy, or coming up with different solutions for problems at the office, you’re feeding the evolutionary impulses in your brain that tell you that being innovative helps you survive. And that’s definitely worth making time for.

Use Creativity To Boost Your Mind

The next time you’re feeling exhausted and drained, try mustering the energy to create something. Science has proven that your mood is instantly improved by the act of being creative, so instead of wallowing in sadness and defeat, make the attempt to indulge your creative side, no matter what your skills may be. Pick up a pencil, start composing a new tune, or think of new and exciting ways to solve a problem at your job. You might find that the grey cloud over your head will lift, and you’ll be able to think more clearly and feel happier than you were before.

When do you find you’re the most creative – when you’re happy or when you’re sad? Talk about it the comments.

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