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The link between creativity and wellbeing

On September 13th, our Senior Graphic Designer Sarah Henderson was asked to speak at Milton Keynes Geek Night (MKGN) about a topic quite close to her heart - the impact of creativity on mental wellbeing.

MKGN is a quarterly event held in Milton Keynes for the digital and creative communities.

It combines talks from speakers in the UK and beyond, offering an opportunity to meet up and chat with like-minded people. On September 13th, our Senior Graphic Designer Sarah Henderson was asked to speak about the impact of creativity on mental wellbeing.

Sarah says: “It was an honour to be able to discuss the power creativity has on your wellbeing and hopefully inspire others in the room to use the time they have in more creative ways to cultivate a more positive outlook.” 

Watch her speak in the video below.

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I am a designer and an artist. I have also been a knitter, a potter, a quilter and a photographer. Since childhood I have been drawn to creative pursuits for the simplest of reasons – they make me happy. But does creativity have a measured effect on 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 evaluated 658 people, each documenting how much time they spent on creative endeavors as well as the positive and negative emotional changes they perceived. After just 13 days a clear pattern emerged. The day after creative activity, they experienced increased positive emotion and flourishing (an overall sense of meaning, purpose, engagement and social connection), while negative emotions didn’t change.

So what does this mean?

This implies there is a clear connection between creativity and emotional functioning. It seems to be a win, win. Not only do you enjoy the creative activity in real-time, but the positive effects of this will last into the next day too, and possibly longer.

I find this very thought-provoking and it certainly goes hand-in-hand with my own experiences. It’s interesting that it does not seem to matter if the item you have created is any good or has any artistic merit – it’s the creative task that brings about the positive effects. I often talk about this as an artist, that it doesn’t matter what you paint as long as you love to do it. Don’t worry about making it good – simply that the act of painting is often joy enough. Release yourself from the pressure of creating a masterpiece and your enjoyment levels immediately increase because you have eradicated the possibility of failure. If you end up with something good, then that is simply an added bonus.

So next time you’ve had a bad day or are running on empty, instead of crashing in front of the TV, do something creative. That could be painting but it could also be playing an instrument, writing poetry, baking cakes, dancing or any of the myriad of choices open to us.

Great thing is, if it turns out good, then you’ll want to do it again and again.

More than just another creative agency