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Getting creative makes you happy fast

December 12, 2016

It’s easy to find yourself in a downward spiral when it comes to your health. All you have to do is give in to a few bad habits — like working too much, eating out a lot, becoming a couch potato or indulging in sweets every night.

And it can happen just as easily to your mental health too. If you forget to take care of yourself and stop making time for the things you love in life, it won’t take long before you’re feeling listless and depressed.

But there’s a simple tactic you can try to quickly transform your downward spiral into the exact opposite — an upward spiral.

People don’t talk about upward spirals as much, but they’re a real phenomenon. When you’re experiencing an upward spiral, you’re enthusiastic about life. You’re thriving, succeeding and enjoying every day.

And who doesn’t want to feel that way? In fact, I’d go so far as to say that everything we do in life is to achieve that very feeling. So how can you capture that elusive sense of joyful enthusiasm?

Be more creative

Apparently, daily creativity is the key to a more joyful, satisfying life… and it works in just 24 hours. Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otag recently found that college students who engage in creative activities are happier and feel like they’re flourishing.

The most exciting part about these findings, however, is that creative activities have an almost immediate impact on your well-being. The research showed that people who performed a creative activity felt happier the very next day.

So if you dig out your old painting supplies right now and paint a picture, you’ll feel more joyful and optimistic about your life tomorrow. Or if you’re short on supplies, you can sit down at your computer and write a poem or short story. It will have the same effect. According to researchers, you can achieve this effect from a wide range of creative activities. The most common activities among study participants were:

  1. Songwriting
  2. Creative writing (poetry, short fiction)
  3. Knitting and crochet
  4. Making new recipes
  5. Painting
  6. Drawing and sketching
  7. Graphic and digital design
  8. Musical performance

But really, you could put your creative juices to work anywhere, anyhow just by doing something different, like…

  1. Come up with a clever way to organize your closet or pantry
  2. Get into the coloring book trend
  3. Drive a different route to the office or home
  4. Listen to a podcast at lunch about a subject you’re unfamiliar with
  5. Write a daily haiku no one has to read but you
  6. Take a walk on your office break with the aim to take one picture of something with your smartphone (no selfies!)
  7. Try paint by number
  8. Rearrange your furniture or your desk
  9. Sum up your feelings or day and pretend you have to put them on a bumper sticker.
  10. Volunteer to be a model for a figure drawing class
  11. Where one piece of clothing that makes you feel extra-fashionable, even if it’s just a colorful belt or funky earrings
  12. Cover the shelves in your refrigerator with patterned saran wrap
  13. Use patterned duck tape to dress up your umbrella
  14. Create a Pinterest board of nothing but artwork, designs, images, photographs, etc., that you find creative
  15. Create another Pinterest board of quotes that inspire you.
  16. Let your imagination run wild

Whatever you do, don’t let fears about creative talents hold you back. Talent has nothing to do with it. The experience of being creative is good for you, regardless of the end product.

And I have a bit more good news. Researchers found that if you do a creative activity today, not only will you be happier tomorrow, but you’ll be more likely to engage in a creative activity again. That means you’ll be well on your way to a full-blown upward spiral, where you’re becoming happier and more creative by the day.

Source: S. Conner, et al. “Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing.” The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2016.

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