Do you remember those carefree childhood moments when you found yourself enthralled in the magical realm of your favorite creative activity? Perhaps you could paint for hours. Or get lost in the pages of a fiction novel. Maybe you loved to dance or play a musical instrument.
Children are encouraged to spend countless hours engaged in creative endeavors, both to facilitate cognitive development and because these activities are so much fun! But as children approach their tween and teen years, participation in these creative activities tends to dwindle as their focus shifts to the demands of their academic and social lives. By the time you reach adulthood, it’s rare to have the opportunity to indulge in these creative habits amidst your other responsibilities.
Whether you are five or 45, cultivating a creative outlet has so many benefits. Let’s dive into why you should embrace your creative side today.
The case for creative outlets
What is creativity?
Creativity is defined as the ability to think outside the box to create new ideas, solutions, or concepts. Or, to put it another way, being creative is having “originality, progressiveness, or imagination” to facilitate problem-solving, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
Some of the most influential figures in history, from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs to Leonardo da Vinci, are considered geniuses. And while they each specialized in vastly different areas of expertise, they all possessed one common trait —creativity. Their creativity enabled them to boldly challenge the status quo and develop new, innovative ideas.
What are the benefits of creativity?
Creativity has numerous benefits for your overall well-being, all the way from your head to your heart to your toes.
Enhances brain function
Flexing your creative muscle activates multiple areas of the brain simultaneously. This allows creatives greater fluidity in their thought patterns and, ultimately, in their intelligence than those who would stick to a more rigid thinking process.
This mental synergy also increases your problem-solving abilities as your brain develops multiple neural paths to ultimately find a solution. When you do achieve that “aha!” moment, you experience a pleasurable rush similar to the high of eating your favorite food. The more of these positive sensations you achieve, the more you want; the more you want, the more creative and mentally agile you become.
Nurtures mental health
Creativity is an excellent form of self-care that can help maintain or improve your mental health. As you achieve revelations, the associated feel-good hits not only enhance your brainpower, but they help you feel happier and more self-satisfied in general. Creative expression activates a perception of reward within the brain, resulting in feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
In addition, engaging in creative activities has been shown to reduce stress by decreasing the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Less stress not only frees up the mental capacity to focus on other things, but it also has significant physical health benefits.
Improves physical conditions
What would you think if, instead of just prescribing a new magic pill, your doctor asked you to take up a creative habit to improve your health? Well, that’s exactly what some physicians have started doing as part of a broader medical program.
Creative outlets such as writing, music, and dance have been shown to have health benefits for multiple medical conditions. Patients who embraced the creative arts saw improved pain management, a boost in their immune system, easier weight management, and reduced blood pressure.
Perhaps a little creativity is just what the doctor ordered.
But I’m not creative!
Not true! Everyone possesses creative potential; you may just be unfamiliar with this part of yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to be creative. There is no grade, you do not have to share with the class, and there is no harm if you decide a creative activity is not for you. Creativity can be whatever you want as long as you find pleasure in the experience.
The good news is creativity can be learned —and you are your own best teacher for the job. The more you pursue creativity, the more natural it will feel.
What is a creative outlet?
A creative outlet can be any number of things —as long as the activity allows you to disconnect from your everyday reality and focus on the moment through creativity.
Not sure which creative outlet to try? Here are fifty ideas to spark the creative genius in you.
50 Creative outlet ideas to try
- Start a journaling practice
- Learn to knit or crochet
- Try photography
- Take up painting
- Teach yourself to edit pictures or videos
- Doodle and let your mind wander
- Take a stab at needlepoint
- Create floral arrangements
- Practice origami
- Try scrapbooking
- Dance (like no one’s watching)
- Recite poetry
- Record digital music tracks
- Escape reality with a good book
- Make personalized greeting cards for friends/family
- Learn videography
- Take vocal lessons (or go solo!)
- Write and direct a play
- Color in an adult coloring book
- Design puzzles, word searches, or crosswords
- Learn graphic design
- Write jokes
- Create a new recipe
- Start a creative social media account (share inspiration, humor, or advice)
- Choreograph a dance to your favorite music
- Write poetry
- Redecorate your home
- Try your hand at fashion design
- Come up with your own lyrics to a catchy tune
- Make jewelry
- Restore antiques
- Do arts & crafts with your children
- Try a pottery class
- Make a comic book
- Design t-shirts (or socks, or blankets, or notebooks)
- Learn calligraphy
- Write music
- Start a flower garden
- Refurbish furniture
- Take music lessons
- Make memes
- Create a collage
- Take up woodworking
- Build something (Lego-size or full-size, your choice)
- Compile a playlist on Spotify
- Join an improv group
- Try stand-up comedy
- Learn the art of cake decorating
- Write a short story
Incorporate creativity into your life
So you know that being creative is good for your brain, body, and emotions, but let’s not forget that your perfect creative outlet should also be enjoyable. And let’s face it, we could all use more joy in our lives.
Creativity’s impact on my life
Growing up, I excelled at math and logic and thought I had the artistic abilities of a toddler with a jumbo crayon; therefore, I assigned myself the role of a left-brained, non-creative person. I set aside any childhood creative inclinations by the end of my teen years in pursuit of academic and, later on, professional achievements. But by the time I reached my thirties, I felt like I was on a never-ending hamster wheel of adulting responsibilities —with little time for the just-because-I-enjoy-them activities.
Decades later, after a difficult time in my personal life, I felt drawn to write. Creative short story writing, actually —an art I had never in my entire life even considered or thought I would be capable of. Yet, during some of my darkest moments, I felt a calling to create my own little worlds through the written word.
Looking back at this yearning and re-reading the stories themselves, writing was clearly a way of processing all the fear and discontent I was experiencing personally. And you know what? It worked.
I am so thankful for my midlife creative awakening, which opened my eyes to new possibilities —in both the world around me and within myself.
So what will you try?
Which of these creative outlets will you try first? Whether you choose scribbling in a notepad, painting a bowl of fruit, or joining a dance troupe, allow yourself the chance to explore your creative inclinations. And most importantly, have fun!
Wishing you all the best in your creative adventure.
What is your favorite way to express your creativity? Do you think this positively impacts your mental and physical health? Let us know in the comments!