creative outlet cartoon

Pablo Picasso once said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

The legendary artist’s words hold true today. In our fast-paced world, we often don’t take the time to tap into our creative sides. We’re too busy cramming for an exam, refreshing social media or arguing about President Donald Trump. We don’t think to sketch a picture, write a poem or decorate a cake for no reason at all. We don’t think to create for the sake of creativity.

A Google search of “creative activities” shows just how disconnected adults can be from their creative side. The search results are almost entirely articles about how parents or teachers can encourage creativity in children, which is rather unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong, we should absolutely encourage creativity in our youth. Adults, however, can likewise benefit from creative outlets.

Creativity offers freedom from judgment. When we create for the sake of creativity, there’s no assignment sheet or rubric telling us how to sketch a landscape, write a poem or decorate a cake. Nothing dictates our expression. That sketch, poem or decoration becomes something that we’ve made wholly by ourselves. That creation is an ode to our identity, allowing us to become more self-aware and confident in who we are, not what we are. Rather than spending all of our time learning calculus to become an engineer, we should take a bit of time creating something to learn who we are.

Several studies have offered a scientific voice to this idealistic notion. A comprehensive article in the American Journal of Public Health lists several health benefits of creativity. The study found that creative tendencies reduced stress, depression and anxiety; improved well-being, self-worth and social identity; decreased negative emotions and encouraged healthier expressions of grief among cancer patients and those suffering from trauma or chronic illness.

However, we don’t need to be sick to reap the benefits of artistic self-expression. Our minds are constantly altering. Therefore, we should indulge in an activity that promotes positive thinking and better mental health.

Personally, studying for an economics exam plays hell with my mental well-being. A break that includes writing a short poem in my journal or playing with sound design in my production software is far more refreshing than mindlessly scrolling Twitter or watching Netflix.

Once again, science offers a reason for this phenomenon. An article in the Harvard Health Letter notes that when we create, we enter a psychological state known as “flow,” when we become absolutely immersed in something, often losing track of time. When we’re in mental flow, our anxieties are muffled and our mood improves.

The article also notes that creating a finished product floods the brain with dopamine. That sense of pride we feel after earning an A on an essay is the same sense of pride we feel after writing a quick poem, sketching a tiny doodle or decorating a cupcake. Which of these, however, is less stressful?

Creativity is a means of acquiring confidence, self-worth, identity and better health. I urge you to incorporate a single act of creativity into your day-to-day routine. It doesn’t have to be anything major. A simple doodle, a quick poem or a spontaneous dance routine can go a long way.

James Smith is a 22-year-old mass communication major from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.

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