Editor’s note: This article is the eighth in an A-Z series on issues related to creative blocks. This month we look at how happiness affects creativity.
There are those who support the idea that emotional distress and trauma fuel the need for creative expression, that they give rise to the motivating force behind art making due to its ability to facilitate the healing process. Others are proponents of the view that happiness and that elusive “sweet spot” between boredom and anxiety lend themselves to the creation and execution of creative ideas.
In this installment of the A-to-Z series, we will look at how feeling happier by taking care of your emotional health can help address creative blocks.
- Adversity: Research has indicated links between the characteristics associated with creativity and the ability to recover from adversity—often found in emotionally healthy individuals (Forgeard, 2013). A person who is able to bounce back from difficult life events exhibits traits such as openness to experience and perception of new possibilities in life, both of which are predictors of creative thinking. In other words, nurturing your inner “trauma survivor” opens the door to creative growth by displaying creativity-enhancing thought patterns.
- Stress: Stress drains your emotional health and creative energy. It can be easy to get lost in a world of high demands, pressure, work, and financial obligations. However, this type of stress can deprive you of the opportunity to utilize your time and motivation for something creative and productive. In addition, during times of stress we tend to revert to old habits and rehearsed behaviors rather than demonstrate innovative and new thinking patterns. By taking a step back to gain perspective and apply stress- and time-management strategies, we can work toward building the psychological and environmental conditions needed to be emotionally healthier and more creative.
- Distractions: Today’s world is full of distractions and interruptions. Cell phones, notifications, social media, and status and news updates pop up in an intrusive and somewhat uncontrollable manner. This can be anxiety provoking in that it conditions us to be in a continuous state of arousal and alertness, but it can also be detrimental to one’s creative flow and process. Imagine having to write a story, compose a piece of music, or paint a picture if you are forced to think about something else every few minutes. By working on eliminating unnecessary distractions, we reduce overwhelming racing thoughts and become more present during the creative journey.
- Social interaction: Social interaction may not always be necessary to spark new ideas, nor in their execution. However, remaining socially connected can have one major advantage for emotional health. It provides a sense of belonging, safety, and a feeling of being supported throughout the pursuit of creative goals. I once worked with a young man whose strained relationships with friends and family occupied so much emotional space that he found it impossible to find the confidence, drive, and commitment to follow his artistic dreams. By nurturing his social relationships, he stopped worrying about having to “fight against” people around him who might have doubted his ambitions and goals.
- Motivation: Emotional satisfaction associated with a particular creative task can be a source of just the right amount of energy and motivation. Tasks that are too complex and difficult demand too much energy and can be frustrating and discouraging. On other hand, working on something that is too easy or repetitive can be a source of boredom and may lead to hindered creativity. By making sure that creative goals are at that “sweet spot” that makes you feel both challenged and rewarded, you develop the motivation needed to break through creative blocks.
Forgeard, Marie J.C. (2013). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. Vol. 7, No. 3, 245-264
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