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How Being More Creative Improves Your Mental and Physical Health

How Being More Creative Improves Your Mental and Physical Health

The science is in. Kids aren’t the only ones who need unstructured playtime and space to fuel their imagination. Adults could use more activities that require imagination and improvisation too, and now brain-imaging studies are showing exactly how creativity alters our brain chemistry and can boost our physical and mental health.

Time to Start Building Your Creative Capacity 

Did you know that reading the classics might be more helpful than a self-help book, knitting has a significant therapeutic effect, and like listening to music, simply appreciating art can decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and happy? Drawing, writing, reading poetry, and crafting can all help lower stress, relax your muscles, reduce indigestion and inflammation, and increase self-esteem and productivity. This is because creative pursuits help us focus our attention, similar to the way that meditating does.

Many of the physical and mental benefits of of creativity involve being in flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s term for that state we get into when we are so engaged in a creative task that our sense of time disappears and we temporarily forget ourselves and our “internal chaos.” We forget about our bodies and our unhelpful thoughts disappear for a while. Some people achieve that mental state when they’re swimming or running, but even the repetitive motion involved in a task like knitting can help regulate strong emotions and calm your nervous system.

Flow is especially beneficial for people with depression or anxiety, and neurological studies show that engaging in purposeful and meaningful activities such as creative pursuits can work like a natural antidepressant by improving mood. So if you could use a mental or physical health upgrade, find some time to grow your creative appreciation or jump right in with any of these activities, if you’re not already busy mastering them.

Go to Art Exhibits and Museums

Maybe you’ve had that mind-stretching, body-tingling experience when looking at a painting or a sculpture and you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you’re one of those people who thinks art isn’t for them. Well, you don’t have to be artsy to appreciate art, or understand what you’re looking at to benefit from it. It’s the curiosity and your body’s visceral response to the experience that counts. Just one simple moment of wonder is actually doing you some good.

The areas of the brain involved in processing emotion and in our feelings of pleasure and reward are engaged when we’re contemplating a painting, especially one that doesn’t immediately make sense to us.

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    Our brain sends the same signals as it does when we’re daydreaming or thinking about the future, and goes into pleasure and reward mode. Oddly, an area called the interior insula, which is also associated with the experience of pain, is activated, but this may be part of the process of trying to find “meaning” in the art work. Take the afternoon off and go to an art exhibit or take a painting class.

    Write In Your Journal

    Stressed out? When was the last time you wrote in a journal? Before you decide that you’re already too busy responding to email and trying to cross more off your to-do list, consider the health benefits of writing. A lot of us are walking around with more stress than we can handle, and stress hormones such as cortisol are harmful to our immune systems and over time can create a lot of serious health problems.

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      A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology shows how writing or journaling about an emotional topic lowered people’s cortisol levels. Personal, expressive writing is very helpful for people suffering from any kind of psychological trauma. In studies, patients who wrote in a journal were able to sleep better, improve their mood, and heal faster.

      Read Literature That Challenges You

      Many of us love to read—hey you’re doing it right now! But did you know that reading something “challenging,” such as Shakespeare benefits your brain and your mental health? Brain scans show that the more challenging prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity in the brain than reading works that are “easier” to read and use more conventional and predictable language.

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      “Reading serious literature shifts mental pathways, helping to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike,” says Philip Davis, an English professor who has combined efforts with Liverpool University’s magnetic resonance center to study the effects that reading William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot and others has on the brain.

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        Read More Poetry

        The same research also found that reading poetry, in particular, increases activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, the area connected to “autobiographical memory.” Poetry helps us reflect on our own experiences and compare them to what we read, and it lights up the part of the brain concerned with language. “Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive,” said Professor Davis.

        Not only that but there’s some evidence that poetry affects our brains in the way that music does. You know that sensation you get when you hear a song you really connect with? It turns out that the same areas of the brain that are aroused by music are set off when we read poetry. This might have something to do with the musical aspects of poetry—rhythm, tone, and word usage.

        Get Crafty

        Some experts equate the benefits of crafting-induced flow with the experience of meditation. It’s like a kind of “mental exercise” that helps regulate your attention and emotions. Whether you’re building furniture, making cute little dogs out of boiled felt, or restyling your wardrobe with origami coats, crafting can put you into a physical state of deep relaxation that alters your physical and emotional responses to stress.

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          Crafting combines self-expression, creative improvisation and problem-solving with mindfulness, which slows down your breathing and can decrease heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.

          Building, sewing, throwing pottery, even gardening and doing home repairs activates your brain’s reward centers to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s sometimes described as a natural antidepressant. Another important factor is how these activities can build community, which is known to be one of the best antidotes to depression. Think of all those people who sell their crafty wares on Etsy—how blissed out they must be!

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            Keep On Stitching

            Many knitters and crocheters know that their craft offers stress relief, and those who do it frequently also reported higher cognitive functioning. Some of the greatest rewards of knitting can come from being in a group of fellow knitters. Studies show that people who are part of a knitting community report  “greater perceived happiness” and improved social contact and communication with others, which is linked to improved mood and brain health.

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              Knitting has been shown to have significant psychological and social benefits as well as therapeutic potential by helping people self-manage things like stress, depression and long-term illness and pain.

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              Use Your Hands

              Being involved in any meaningful creative task that requires using your hands, according to physician- writer team Carrie and Alton Barron, can help elevate your mood, stimulate your senses, and foster internal well-being. They recommend fitting 20-30 minutes in every day.

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                Discover A New World

                Indulging your creative side is like getting more mental exercise—it teaches patience and perseverance, increases your sense of pride, develops fine motor dexterity, and can bring you together with people who share your interests. And as psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott pointed out, being creative moves us closer to discovering our true self.

                 

                Featured photo credit: creative commons via pixabay.com

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                Last Updated on October 30, 2018

                How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

                How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

                What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

                To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

                All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

                There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

                With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

                What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

                1.Think big.

                  From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

                  “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

                  There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

                  Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

                  Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

                  Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
                  Instead be ambitious.

                  2.Find what you love to do and do it.

                    From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

                    “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

                    This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

                    Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

                    If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

                    Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

                    Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

                    Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

                    3. Learn how to balance life.

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                      From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

                      “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

                      All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

                      If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

                      However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

                      If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

                      In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

                      To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

                      4. Do not be afraid of failure.

                        From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

                        “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

                        There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

                        Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

                        His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

                        He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

                        Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

                        Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

                        5. Have an unwavering resolution to succeed.

                          From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

                          “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

                          This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

                          It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

                          If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

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                          Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

                          6. Be a person of action.

                            From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                            “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                            Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                            Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                            When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renissance era Italy, we think of Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

                            Or think about the present day:

                            Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                            You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                            All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                            Applying this to you?

                            Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                            7. Avoid conflicts.

                              From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                              The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                              The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                              People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                              This is key to good leadership.

                              It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                              But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                              What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                              As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

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                              8. Don’t be afraid of introducing new ideas.

                                From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                                “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                                It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                                Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                                If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                                9. Believe in your capacity to succeed.

                                  From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                                  “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                                  Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                                  It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                                  Keep dreaming!

                                  10. Always maintain a positive mental attitude.

                                    From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                                    “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                                    Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                                    Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                                    If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                                    However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                                    11. Don’t let discouragement stop you from pressing on.

                                      From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                                      “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                                      It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

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                                      When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

                                      Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                                      If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                                      Take a look at these 5 Ways to Stop Self Doubt in its Tracks.

                                      12. Be willing to work hard.

                                        From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                                        “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                                        You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                                        Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                                        True success comes from work.

                                        You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                                        Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                                        13. Be brave enough to follow your intuition.

                                          From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                                          “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                                          In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                                          If you strongly believe and desire something, the chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                                          It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                                          Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                                          Final thoughts

                                          What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                                          Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this:

                                          How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                                          More Recommended Lifehack Experts in Success

                                          • Mandie Holgate — Successful life coach in the UK, helping businesses and individuals achieve greatness
                                          • David Carpenter — Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership
                                          • Ray Zinn — An inventor, entrepreneur, bestselling author and the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley

                                          Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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