How creative activity as opposed to consuming can benefit one’s sense of well-being and fundamental happiness and fulfillment in life.
Many people assume that happiness is brought about by the acquisition of wealth and the freedom that can bring. Others assume that fulfillment is found in a perfect partnership or relationship. Some will tell you that travel and experiencing exotic places is the antidote to the boredom and emptiness. The common denominator for most of these solutions, apart from being expensive, is the idea of ‘consuming’.
This is based on the belief that consuming in and of itself helps to achieve a fundamental sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. For example, wealth can give one access to fine dining, beautiful cloths and property. It can let you consume whatever you want, be it something material or an experience like an exotic holiday. But can that really increase your happiness? Can it really make you feel fulfilled in a deeply satisfying way?
Those in the know say creating as opposed to consuming is the more reliable rout to fundamental fulfillment and ultimately a stronger sense of happiness.
Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” His statement endorses the belief that creative endeavors and practices promote a sense of well-being and fulfillment. This notion has growing empirical support in scientific circles with some interesting research.
For example, Tamlin S. Conner, Colin G. DeYoung and Paul J. Silvia (2016 Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing, The Journal of Positive Psychology) suggest “that spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher activated positive affect (PA) on that day”.
This view runs counter-intuitively to the popular conception of the tormented creative genius. In their research Corner, De Young and Silvia explored how daily creativity and three measures of emotional well-being (positive affect, negative affect, and flourishing), could answer a novel question: “Does engaging in everyday creative acts make people feel better emotionally?”
Their study was prompted by the growing recognition in recent psychological studies, that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. However, what makes their study so interesting is that it asks the question, does creative activity promote emotional well-being as opposed to asking, does emotional well-being promote creativity?
What their research revealed was that even though popular culture links creativity to negative emotional states like madness or sadness, their results suggested that for most people creative endeavors produce emotionally positive results.
Creative pursuits are often self-driven and thus associated to notions of flourishing and what psychologists call “eudaimonic well-being,” or a state of optimal functioning which includes feelings of fundamental meaning, and purpose in life. Corner, De Young and Silvia postulate that if creative behavior increases well-being, then it seems very likely that it also enhances peoples sense of flourishing and fundamental happiness.
This is good news for people who want to improve their condition of well-being because it won’t cost you a fortune in designer clothes and exotic holidays in order to warrant happiness. Instead all it might cost you is the price of a sketch pad and some watercolors. If painting doesn’t take your fancy, there are many alternate ways to challenge your creativity in order to produce that sought after feeling of well-being and joy. You could try your hand at writing, singing, growing roses, making cupcakes, getting involved in community events. Being creative is a varied occupation and can include almost anything you can care to imagine. Some examples include, learning a language, amateur acting, running in local politics, learning crafts, becoming an expert in some subject like bird watching. The only limit is your imagination.
Ask yourself what your passion is, what excites you? If there were no restrictions what would your bucket list for tomorrow be? Even thinking about being creative is in itself a creative activity, so why not give it a try. After all it will cost you almost nothing and all the resources you need to feel fundamentally fulfilled and happy are right here available to you now. As Marcus Aurelius observed: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”