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The Health Benefits Of Engaging In Creative Thinking?

Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw PHD - Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Creative thinking can actually be good for the health of our brain and our heart!

Benefits for the Brain

Engaging in good creative-problem solving can actually help release the brain chemical called dopamine which helps us to feel good and think better which is why engaging in creative activity can feel very rewarding and prepares us for good learning. When you have an ‘Ah-ha moment’ you actually get a little squirt of dopamine which is a pleasant experience. All of us have had the wonderful experience of suddenly getting the flash of insight or inspiration. For example a creative activity that I frequently engage in is developing new workshops. I am constantly looking for creative ways of helping people to learn more effectively in my programs as well as have really enjoyable experiences so that the learning sticks. Every time I have a moment of insight that leads to a really cool new activity or methodology I get an instant little brain buzz and feel very pleased and satisfied with myself. We’ve all had that experience. It can be a relatively small one like my example of creating a new activity or a massive moment of insight that makes history – as happened to Archimedes the great ancient Greek mathematician. The story goes that he was grappling with a difficult problem that the King had set for him about testing whether or not the King’s crown was pure gold or mixed with another metal. As he stepped into the bath he noticed the accompanying displacement of water and suddenly solved the problem. History tells us that he was so excited about it that he ran naked out of the bathhouse yelling “Eureka! Eureka!”

Thinking creatively challenges us to step out of our comfort zone to prevent mental ruts by exercising the brain which is good for brain health just as physical exercise is good for the body. There is also some reputable research showing that creative activity in older people is associated with reduced dementia and increased longevity. So it is definitely good for the health of our brain.

Benefits for the Heart

How is creativity good for the health of our heart? The response to this one is a little more subjective. There isn’t as much research around about the direct link between creativity and physical health but certainly there is evidence that engaging in creative activities reduces stress and that’s got to be good for the heart. From my own personal experience emersion in a creative activity can leave me feeling both mentally and physically energised and invigorated. It’s fun, fulfilling and refreshing. Absorbing yourself in a creative activity can send you into a state of ‘Flow’. That is a title of an influential book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who coined the term ‘Flow’. This is where you are so focussed on an activity that you enter a place where time seems to stand still. And when you emerge from that place you feel revitalised.

In my younger days when I was a budding artist, I would have that experience when I painted. I could easily spend an entire day without a break working on my ‘masterpiece’. These days I get that same experience from writing. My masterpieces today are not for hanging on walls but rather in creating memorable learning experiences. Interestingly – although the products are so vastly different, the effect of the creative experience is the same. And as a stress reducer it is great, so that’s how it’s good for the health of our heart.

So get creative and improve your health!!

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