Our ability to think of, and deal with, lots of different ideas is helped by a healthy processing speed. You may be under the impression, or have even been told, that painting, doodling, knitting, learning an instrument, going to dance lessons, are extra-curricular activities encouraged in our youth, that may belong in and with our youth. But in actual fact, they have huge benefits that spill into the other areas of our lives, including our professional ones as adults.
Is there a cognitive benefit to being more creative?
In short, absolutely! Creativity can really benefit our processing speed, and over time we could find that we’ll be able to process information and complete multiple tasks more quickly and effectively, using our new-found creativity to process thoughts more quickly and accurately.
Need proof? Well, a 2013 study by Michigan State University found that taking part in arts and crafts led to more creative and innovative ideas from the people studied, also increasing the likelihood of these people coming up with new ideas as well. This shows that we can improve our processing speed by taking part in creative activities, such as arts and crafts.
The study looked at science and technology graduates and found that there was a direct link between graduating in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and having arts and crafts skills. Most of the people studied also believed their innovation was stimulated by arts and crafts activities.
From this we can see that instead of being disposable extras, an involvement with the arts has a significantly positive impact on producing scientists and engineers, as it increases our ability to come up with and process more ideas.
Dr. Lawrence Katz has also undertaken studies on how art can improve problem-solving skills. Dr. Katz suggests that this is stimulated by art encouraging you to think outside the box, and come up with your own unique solutions to different problems. Since there is no one correct answer when it comes to art, you force your brain to think in creative and novel ways.
Do we have to be artists then?
Nah. It’s important to remember when undertaking creative pursuits that it really doesn’t matter how good you are. Regardless of if you are a complete novice or a budding Michelangelo, you will still benefit from giving creative activities a good go.
As well as helping you think more creatively, activities such as painting, sculpting, drawing, and photography have all been shown to reduce stress. Part of the reasoning behind this is that creating art trains you to concentrate on fine details, and pay more attention to your environment. In this way, undertaking artistic pursuits has many of the same benefits you can experience from meditation.
Tips for being more creative:
Embrace creativity by going to museums, galleries and concerts. Explore artistic environments, feel inspired to create your own masterpieces, or simply soak up the sounds.
Be curious about everything, always ask, “Why?”, whether it’s your feelings, discovering new information, taking in different cultures. Look at new experiences with curiosity.
Start thinking about problems in new and creative ways. Think outside the box, make it a triangle, circle, a rhombus! Remember there is always more than one right answer.
Mix up your schedule. Take a break from rigid routine, walk a different way to work, cook a new dish, listen to a new artist. Small things like this can make routine changes easier to manage and implement, especially if we’re busy people with little time for new things!
Learn something new. Always wanted to learn an instrument? It’s never too late to learn an instrument, a new language, a painting technique, the rules of rugby.
Creative cats: (even if you’re not a cat person, this applies to you!) Remember not to pile on the pressure to be the next Pablo Picasso or Mozart. We don’t need to be brilliant, we can even be absolutely rubbish but the act of expressing creativity can encourage clarity and innovation in the workplace, and reduce stress so why not give it a go - even if it’s colouring with the kids or absorbing others skills in a gallery.