As children, creativity is a natural and inherent part of our lives. We color and draw without worrying about what other people think of our pictures. We create imaginary worlds and play make-believe. We make string bracelets for our friends. We go to ballet class or violin lessons.
As we grow older, however, creativity often falls to the wayside. Unless we’re one of the lucky few successfully working in art-based fields, most of us don’t set aside time specifically for our creative pursuits.
But research shows that creativity is an essential skill that helps adults be happier and more productive, both at work and in our personal lives. Here’s how to foster more creativity in your life.
Why is this important?
- Research has shown that creativity improves mental health, especially for older adults. Engaging in activities like art, dance, and music can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Taking on an artistic endeavour can make adults feel more resilient and self-sufficient. You are creating something out of nothing, and that’s an empowering feeling.
- Creative activities allow you a way to express yourself, even when you don’t have the words. This can be helpful when you’re processing an experience that’s been overwhelming or traumatic.
- The arts give us a sense of community. As we age, we are at a higher risk of becoming isolated. Getting involved in arts programs and creative pursuits now will protect you against isolation in the future by giving you something to connect with others over.
How to foster more creativity in middle adulthood:
- Lower your expectations, and let go of perfectionism. You probably won’t become the next Van Gogh or Mozart, and that’s okay. Creativity isn’t about accomplishing or “winning” anything -- it’s simply about giving yourself an opportunity to engage that (perhaps forgotten) side of yourself.
- In that vein, be playful. Make mistakes on purpose. Make a mess. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
- Join a community. Whether it’s a local choir group or a knitting group on Facebook, connecting to others is often the best part of being creative.
- Commit to creativity as a goal and prioritize making time for it. Otherwise, you may find that the menial tasks of daily life get in the way of building a rich creative pursuit.
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Mental Health Foundation (2019). How Arts Can Help Your Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/how-arts-can-help-improve-your-mental-health.
Noice, H., Noice, T., & Staines, G. (2004). A Short-Term Intervention to Enhance Cognitive and Affective Functioning in Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 16(4), 562–585. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898264304265819
Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American journal of public health, 100(2), 254–263. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497