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Opinions of Friday, 27 August 2021

Columnist: Dora Awuah /Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, PhD

Creativity in everyday life, an asset to mental wellbeing

Dora Awuah/ Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, PhD Dora Awuah/ Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, PhD

Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas.

It is not limited to some specific activities but embedded in daily activities by ordinary people.

Although every individual human is endowed with some level of creative ability, certain individuals are highly skilled in some specific activities than others.

Research indicates enormous benefits of creativity to health and wellbeing in diverse ways.

It enhances the overall health outcomes of individuals and also serves as the engine of growth for organisations. Children, adolescents and adult populations are all benefactors in diverse ways.

Generally, social connections, self-confidence, mood and brain functioning are improved through creative ways of living.

As such, the Dora Awuah Foundation seeks to create awareness on the positive impact of creativity on Mental Health and Wellbeing as it commemorates the month of August as Creativity Month.

The essence is to encourage families, individuals and organisations to maximise the benefits to prevent, promote and manage mental health challenges.

Dora Awuah Foundation is an NGO that promotes mental health through awareness creation, crisis intervention, and empowerment, with a focus on the youth.

Simple ways to be creative

There are multiple ways to demonstrate one’s creativity. Creative minds innovate; they transform ordinary things and spaces into extraordinary products. Creativity is not limited to a few activities.

Instead, it transcends to diverse fields of endeavour.

Common creative acts include trying out new recipes, rearranging the home, self-care, learning a new skill, keeping a journal, taking photos, having a meal outside the usual location, writing and trying out new hobbies, among others.

Doing new things brings vitality to life as new nerve connections are created for improved functioning.

How does creativity enhance mental health and wellbeing?

Living in creative ways boosts one’s confidence. For instance, learning how to drive and being able to drive increases one’s self-esteem.

One can boldly step forward to drive in emergency situations.

Conversely, death due to one’s inability to drive a critically ill patient to seek emergency healthcare can result in self-blame and other negative psychological consequences.

Thus, creativity naturally resonates good feelings about one’s self, which invariably elevates self-esteem. Consistently, these positive feelings translate into real performances, resulting in the attainment of life’s goals.

Creativity is also associated with good feelings. Natural chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, are released in abundance following accomplishment of creative acts.

These neurotransmitters then sustain the cycle of generally feeling good, which motivates other positive behaviours and thoughts.

Research indicates that different parts of the brain are stimulated simultaneously during creative acts.

In a study published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2014, musical activity was found to activate both the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The implication is that any time people listen to music, dance, sing, or play a musical instrument, the brain is activated to improve its performance in several ways to enhance job performance and health outcomes.

The overall impact of creativity on the brain, mood and self-esteem, among others, enables individuals to interact well with others.

Moreover, some creative acts such as singing and other hobbies require participation in a group endeavour, which builds, enhances social ties and fosters a feeling of belonging within a group.

The field of occupational psychology and therapy views creative acts such as crafting as important resources for recovery from mental illness.

This is because creative works help to focus the mind due to the calming effect they have on the brain and body as in the case of meditation.

Some individuals, especially children and adolescents, express trauma or experiences which are difficult to put into words through writing or artwork such as drawing and painting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated mental health issues worldwide (WHO, 2021).
Therefore, it is imperative for countries, families and individuals to explore alternative ways of coping with diverse psychosocial stressors confronting people within the pandemic period.
More so, the debilitating impact of mental health illnesses on individuals, families, and economies calls for diverse therapeutic approaches to minimise their impact of these illnesses on populations.

Hence, creativity is one efficacious and effective way of preventing and promoting mental health and wellbeing among all populations.

Creativity comes readily in everyday activities.

However, one needs to make an intentional effort to be creative in order to fully exploit the many psychosocial benefits.

We encourage individuals, families, and organisations to learn new ways of doing things while adopting novel strategies in resolving problems.

The result might be an improved mental health for an improved functioning.

This article was co-authored by:

Dora Awuah (Mrs.)
Clinical Psychologist
Founder of Dora Awuah Foundation

Dr Johnny Andoh-Arthur, PhD
Department of Psychology
School of Social Sciences
University of Ghana, Legon.