Melbourne | Engaging in everyday creative activities such as writing poetry, painting or making new recipes may improve well-being as well as creativity in young adults, a new study suggests.
Researchers at University of Otago in New Zealand asked 658 university students to keep a daily diary of their experiences and emotional states over 13 days.
After analysing the diaries the researchers, led by Dr Tamlin Conner, found a pattern of the participants feeling more enthusiasm and higher “flourishing” than usual following days when they were more creative.
Flourishing is a psychological concept that can be described as increasing positive growth in oneself.
The researchers found that the most common examples reported were songwriting; creative writing (poetry, short fiction); knitting and crochet; making new recipes; painting, drawing, and sketching; graphic and digital design; and musical performance.
Conner and her team wanted to find out if engaging in everyday creative acts makes people feel better emotionally.
“There is growing recognition in psychology research that creativity is associated with emotional functioning. However, most of this work focuses on how emotions benefit or hamper creativity, not whether creativity benefits or hampers emotional wellbeing,” Conner said.
The researchers found that “positive affect” (PA) – which encompasses feelings such as pleasurable engagement, joy, happiness, excitement and enthusiasm – on a particular day did not predict next-day creative activity.
“Our earlier research found that PA appears to increase creativity during the same day, but our latest findings show that there is no cross-day effect. Rather, it is creative activity on the previous day that predicts wellbeing the next,” she said.
Even when controlling for next-day creative activity, the previous day’s creativity significantly predicted energised PA and flourishing.
“This finding suggests a particular kind of upward spiral for wellbeing and creativity – engaging in creative behaviour leads to increases in wellbeing the next day, and this increased wellbeing is likely to facilitate creative activity on the same day,” researchers said.
“Overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning,” they said.