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How creativity affects the adult brain
Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up a creative brain. The more you use, the more you have.” This phrase rings true as we discover more and more that creatively using your brain leads to a more substantial life and is greatly beneficial for your body, mind, and soul.
Not only can you not “use up” or run out of your creativity, but as you practice being creative you will find yourself constantly wanting to do more with your talents. As a writer, the more I interact with words (whether it be through reading, writing, or editing), the more I feel the words flowing from my mind. As you become more proficient at producing your chosen type of art, you will feel a sense of your desire to create multiplying rapidly. Also, the more prolific you are, the more benefits you will reap.
Performing an activity that utilizes your hands while also challenging your brain is an enjoyable and efficient way to expand your horizons. Tasks such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle, drawing, building a scale model, and coloring all enhance your brain’s abilities while providing a fun outlet for your fingers’ energy. Studies have shown that creative experiences not only improve brain function but can also increase happiness and raise overall life satisfaction levels as well as lowering stress and reducing anxiety. In addition to their mental benefits, many of these practices also improve fine motor skills.
While you may not identify yourself immediately as being a creative person, do not let that scare you away from trying out a new idea! Everyone has a sense of purpose inside of them and, whether that manifests itself as creativity coming more or less easily to you, you can find a way to produce something awesome. Putting yourself out there in doing an activity you would not normally choose can feel daunting. However, once you realize how good you feel and how helpful creating can be in your life, you will never go back. The self-respect and positive mentality you will develop is so much more important than whether your art is deemed “good” by others; it is inherently good because it has caused you to grow.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of the benefits of practicing your creativity.
Increased Happiness and Satisfaction
Everyone wants to feel good about life. Whether you’re constantly occupied or rarely busy, taking a break to do something creative is a great way to release dopamine in the brain. This chemical, related to the cause of pleasure, increases our happiness levels. Raising your dopamine levels by making something with your hands or focusing on a piece of art will certainly improve your daily happiness and general satisfaction. If you struggle with your mental health, you may be lacking dopamine. Filling in a coloring page or building a clay figure will release more of this chemical and can aid in improving your mood greatly.
Decreased Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are common aspects of life that many people deal with daily. How can we overcome these obstacles? There are lots of great ways to cope with stress and anxiety. One of them is being creative. Using your hands and brain to work on a project will not only relax your amygdala (the fear centre in your brain) but will also create a meditative state to keep you calm and feeling emotionally steady.
Improved Fine Motor Skills and Focus
Concentration can be difficult as we get older. We also tend to lose some of our manual dexterity as we age. Fortunately, there are ways we can work our brain to build up our endurance in focusing, as well as practicing our physical abilities to improve them. Doing a jigsaw puzzle or drawing will help strengthen your hands and fingers, allowing you to keep your fine motor skills sharp. These activities will also improve your focus by giving you a task to concentrate on. Try taking short breaks throughout your day to add to a drawing or puzzle to slowly stretch your ability to focus.
Another aspect of life that is often affected by ageing is sleep patterns. Getting older can mean waking up in the middle of the night, or having trouble falling asleep, to begin with. By increasing the number of activities you perform throughout the day, you will not only feel more physically relaxed by the time bedtime rolls around, but you will also have a calmer state of mind. This will help you to fall asleep (and stay asleep) better. Improving your quality of sleep will overflow into improving your entire life.
So, if you want to reap all of these great benefits, how do you choose an activity? According to a Harvard study, the three concepts to consider are the level of challenge, complexity, and amount of practice involved in the task (Train your brain – Harvard Health). First, how challenging will the experience be for you? You don’t want it to be too high out of the reach of your abilities, however, you should pick an activity that will stretch and push you to become better than you already are. The next aspect, the complexity of the task, will create excitement and a need for problem-solving within your brain. Lastly, take a look at how much time and practice you are dedicating to the activity. The more you do something, the more natural it will become to your mind and body. Do not worry about pushing yourself to practice constantly; creativity is about the journey, not just the destination.
Above all else, you should choose to do something that you enjoy. If your practice feels like a chore, you will be reluctant to work on it. On the other hand, if it feels fun and relaxed, you will start to desire the breaks you take from your daily life to work on your model airplane or paint-by-numbers. Find what feels good for you and fits into your life.
Another crucial aspect of incorporating a new activity into your life is making the proper time for it. Don’t assume you’ll get to it “whenever.” This attitude often means that you will end up putting your activity off until something reminds you of it again. Instead, be proactive and carve out time in your schedule specifically for these creative moments. Be intentional about taking a break from the business (or lack thereof) in your daily life and remember, “I simply do not have the time” is not a good excuse; we make time for the things that are important to us.
Whether you are simply looking to learn a new skill or trying to improve your daily life by adding time for creativity into your schedule, you will gain all of these benefits (and more) from using your hands and brain to work on an artful project. Whether this comes easily to you or not, you will not regret it. Your life is an amazing thing; do not let it go by without trying an activity that can bring so much more beauty to it.
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