Why is creativity important for mental health?

Dr Marion Piper looking confused sitting at a desk in front of her iPad.

This isn’t going to be one of those articles that rams science in your eyeballs. It’s also not one of those blogs that’s jacked up on pseudo self-care fluff either. Drink your rosé in that bubble bath sis because you’ll likely need to after I’m done with you.

If you’ve been in my orbit for a little while, you’ll know how highly I value creativity. It has saved my ass time and time again. From what? MYSELF. So let’s walk the tightrope between mental health and creativity to see why these two concepts are so inextricably linked (and what you can do to harness their healing powers).

Dr Marion Piper gesturing with her hands to come with her.
Get in loser, we’re healing ourselves with creativity… Photo by The Who Photography & Design

Mental health is dynamic and always in flux

How you feel today is going to be different to how you feel tomorrow, even if your daily routine doesn’t fundamentally change. That’s because we’re alive. And as living creatures, we’re in a constant dance with each other and the environment, responding and reacting to all the stimuli, distractions and events that cross our paths.

From this understanding, it’s plausible to see how important it is to have a toolkit of practices to support your beautifully complex self. This is where creativity can be a game changer. It’s just as dynamic and adaptable as you are, able to compliment the plethora of life that’s swirling around you on the regular.  

But why is creativity important?

Everything you do is an act of creation: from the smaller habits – what you choose to eat, how you decorate your home and what you do for work – to the larger patterns – how you respond to a challenge, what you say to yourself internally and how you are in relationship. That’s without even talking about art.

Creativity is important because it’s a deep and ancient part of what it means to be human. It’s how we connect the dots, chase our dreams and bridge the divide between our minds and the external world. But, most importantly, it’s how we express ourselves.

So how can creativity support my mental health?

Here’s where things get interesting. I’m not a psychologist and want to encourage you to work with one to develop your own tools (especially if you’re struggling), but if you’re after some good words, I’ve got you covered. 

Creativity is a gateway to FLOW

The Hungarian father of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has likely entered your radar in the last few years. He unfortunately passed away last year but his work is foundational for many artists, athletes and high performers. 

Rather than aiming for perfection, our goal as creative humans could be instead to aim for FLOW. That beautiful, juicy, time-evading state where nothing else matters – total focus, enjoyment and 100% energising. It’s liberating and totally accessible to you.

There are lots of flow activities you can try, but for me, my favourite is lifelong learning. When my brain is engaged in something I’m passionate about uncovering, I fall down the rabbit hole (waving to Alice as I go deeper), forgetting that anything else exists. That sounds better than caring about what other people think or trying to please everyone, right?  

Creativity can build self-efficacy

This is a big one. Self-efficacy affects every aspect of our being because it’s our belief in our ability to get the life we want. If we’re confident in our capacity to control our behaviours and performance to chase our goals, anything becomes possible.

Creativity can be useful in this area because as a process, it puts you in the driver’s seat. Connecting the dots to make something new is an empowering experience, especially when it’s something aligned to what you value most. 

Too often we shy away from going after what we really want because we lack the self-efficacy (aka belief) that we’re the right person to do it. The trick is to map a creative process that mirrors how you like to work – that way you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to taste glory. 

Creativity can boost your confidence and self-esteem

Hands up if you’re not feeling that confident right now in life? Same sis, same. I’m not immune to feelings of self-doubt and just like you I often question why the F I am doing what I’m doing. But when I’m in creation mode, all of that BS fades away.

Creativity is all about self-expression: whether that’s via artistic practices or in your daily work, when you feel seen and heard, confidence isn’t too far behind. When you channel your innermost thoughts and feelings into something you’ve made, you open the door to greater connection and visibility. But if you keep those thoughts and feelings repressed, they can cause a lot of damage, so it’s vital to develop practices that allow you to do this in healthy ways.

“But Dr Maz, where do I start? How do I use creativity to improve my mental health?”

Your journey as a creative human is a very personal one. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater either – chances are, you’re closer than you think to living the life you dream about.

I’m a big advocate for starting small, so here are some questions you might like to answer for yourself to get the ball rolling:

  • Where in my life do I feel like I have little to no control over outcomes?
  • What activities or hobbies bring me joy?
  • On an average day, how do I spend my time? (Literally track yourself for a day and see where your attention goes, you’ll be surprised by how much free time you may actually have).

Then, when you have some answers, let’s chat!

I love working 1:1 with legendary humans like you to get those creative juices flowing. You can book a creativity coaching session with me to get to the bottom of why your ideas never see the light of day or how you can better manage your time and energy to get that locus of control back.

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