What does creativity offer us? Does one have to be a creative genius to reap the benefits of creativity or can we all profit?
A recent study (Conner, DeYoung and Silvia 2018) examined the relationship between daily creative activity and people’s emotional experiences. Participants kept daily diaries of their creative activity, which included documentation of not only artistic actions (painting, music, writing, etc.), but also the generation of novel ideas and the expression of oneself in original ways.
The researchers found that increased creativity led to increased well-being. Those who engaged in creative activity felt more enthusiasm and “flourishing” afterwards.
Previous studies have shown that positive emotions can influence creativity, but this study highlights a different cause and effect: how creativity can create greater energy and excitement as well as feelings of calm, contentment and relaxation on the days following creative activity.
The positive effects of daily creativity were found regardless of personality. In other words, everyone can benefit from creative activity – you don’t need to have a certain artistic temperament or style to begin with.
So go ahead, give yourself permission to get to know your brand of creativity. Even in the form of mundane daily experiences, creative actions can contribute to positive psychological functioning.
Creativity in Action:
Viewing artists as “children who survived,” London-based Ukrainian artist, Olya Dobrovolska, teaches children the basic notions of creativity. She helps children express their emotions through art and simply have fun with it. Check out her playful and imaginative work: http://www.dobrovolska-art.com
DanceSyndrome in northwest UK invites people of all abilities and disabilities to express themselves through dance. Those who have attended DanceSyndrome’s inclusive and supportive workshops report improved mental and physical health afterwards, feeling happier and more connected to others. The learning-disabled dance leaders have inspired hundreds since 2009 through their performances and classes. http://dancesyndrome.co.uk
Many people feel as though there’s something indulgent or selfish in desiring leisure. Even to just talk about it in this culture, unless it’s paired with retirement planning, seems to diminish or to cast doubt upon the seriousness of one’s work ethic, one’s intentions toward accomplishment and productivity.
A recent study, however, showed that when participants described a possible future for themselves, it contained significantly more leisure time than their daily lives contained (Loveday, Lovell and Jones 2018). And, most interestingly, the leisure desired was not just about having fun (though there’s nothing wrong with that!). Fifty-nine percent of the participants reported wanting to use the leisure time for learning, improving and contributing to society.
Activities such as travel, one of the most popular uses of leisure time, contribute to the building of knowledge, the feeling of meaning and purpose, and the sharing of new experiences with other people (as reported by the study’s participants). All these qualities are components of “the good life” as many conceptualize it.
Granted, this particular study was conducted on middle-class, middle-aged Australians with greater means for travel. But, cross-cultural research has found that, in general, leisure enhances well-being through its enabling of affiliation (time with family, friends, etc. providing a sense of connection and belonging) and of a sense of autonomy, among other benefits such as rest and recovery. ***
Did You Know:
The United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours” (The United Nations, 1948, article 24).
Did You Also Know:
In some countries, one’s freedom to “roam free” is protected by law. This principle is referred to in Sweden as allemansrätten. All publicly-owned land is free and accessible – no fees are associated with camping, cycling, or walking upon it. Other countries that enshrine the public’s right to roam in nature in law include Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
Here are some recent words of wisdom from two of my favorite people. Michael Pollan is speaking about insights he learned while doing research for his new book, How to Change Your Mind.
Pollan: “We assume we’re identical to our ego…But I’m not identical to my ego – there’s another ground on which to stand and take in reality….These defenses you build up over your whole life: you don’t need them. And you can lower them and not face complete annihilation.”
Colbert: “So ego should be a controlled substance?!”
Quoted from Stephen Colbert’s interview
with author Michael Pollan on the Colbert Show 5/15/18.
Check out the full interview at:
We’re all aware of the robust research on the benefits of physical activity. But what you may not be aware of is that the motivation behind the activity can determine how beneficial the actual doing of it is for your well-being.
Studies of older adults have shown, for example, that subjective well-being actually goes down when the purpose of engaging in an activity is a way to simply spend time as opposed to a way for meeting people (Everard et al 2000).
Why might this be the case? Let’s look a little deeper at what motivates voluntary behavior. According to the Dualistic Model of Passion (Vallerand et al 2007), there are two types of passion associated with doing preferred activities: obsessive passion and harmonious passion.
Obsessive passion has to do with feelings of internal or external pressure to do an activity due to it being linked to one’s self-esteem, social acceptance, or other influences on one’s sense of self. Harmonious passion has to do with a feeling of willingness and choice in engaging in an activity, usually because the individual decides it’s important to them without it impacting their identity. Harmonious passion has a sense of volition to it, whereas obsessive passion is associated with an uncontrollable urge and resulting conflict between the activity and other life priorities.
In a study of physically active older adults in Egypt (Salama-Younes and Hashim 2018), the researchers found that individuals who demonstrated harmonious passion as well as a subjective sense of vitality, had higher scores on life satisfaction. Obsessive passion, on the other hand, led to a significant decrease in life satisfaction regardless of personal feelings of vitality.
So perhaps, paradoxically, engaging in activities designed to maintain or enhance one’s self-esteem or personal sense of self may not, in fact, be the best form of self-care. ***
Fight for Peace academies in England and Brazil “combine boxing and martial arts with education and personal development to realize the potential of young people in communities affected by crime, violence and social exclusion.”
Promoting self-respect and self-control, discipline, and feelings of belonging, Fight for Peace endorses a holistic change model that includes physical training, employability, social support and youth leadership: “championship” inside and outside the boxing ring.
Check it out: http://fightforpeace.net/about-us/our-approach/
Did you know that there’s a thing called Psychological Capital or PsyCap? PsyCap is a positive psychological state composed of four overlapping components: hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism (HERO).
The bulk of the research on PsyCap has focused on organizational settings. These studies show that having PsyCap correlates with well-being (Murray et al 2010) and positive job performance (Luthans et al 2008), among other beneficial outcomes for employees such as decreasing burnout among nurses (Bitmis and Ergeneli 2015). As a result, PsyCap has been integrated into positive leadership development (Youssef-Morgan and Luthans, 2013).
A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology reports that PsyCap also influences motivation in academic settings (Alfonso et al 2018). PsyCap was found to predict greater academic engagement and achievement, in part through increasing students’ autonomous motivation (that is, motivation that stems from engaging in personally meaningful and satisfying actions).
PsyCap is being applied to other domains, such as Relationship PsyCap and Health PsyCap (Luthans et al 2013). Check out other applications ….
In 2015, the University of Wollongong in Australia opened its first “positive dorms,” Kooloobong Village, a residence for students that addresses not only their educational needs, but also their social and psychological needs using the science of positive psychology. Resources at the residence supply the “Wheel of Wellbeing - Body, Mind, Spirit, People, Place and Planet.” The Village and its Live Out Loud Program has received international attention as a model of holistic university residency and has received the Australian College of Educators’ Outstanding Achievement in Education award.
While we all may be familiar with the cliché that “money can’t buy happiness,” many of us still have our doubts. In a culture that promotes capital, profit and productivity, the notion that “less is more” may a bit hard to get one’s mind around.
Let’s look at what the research says:
A series of nine experiments found that priming people to think about money leads to a more self-sufficient orientation in which people are less likely to request help and help others (Vohs et al 2006). Reminders of money were also found to cause people to want to work and play alone, and physically distance themselves from a new acquaintance to a greater degree than those not prompted to think about money. Simply making people feel more wealthy (regardless of actual income) by having them compare themselves to others worse off was found to lead to more selfish, unethical choices and greedy behavior (Piff et al 2012).
Classic studies have shown that, even when people acquire surplus material possessions or extreme wealth such as through the winnings of a lottery, they are no more likely to experience happiness than they were prior to their acquisitions (Brickman et al 1978). The tendency has been labeled the hedonic treadmill, noting how the more you accumulate (money or otherwise), the more you end up desiring. This results in an ever-increasing treadmill pace towards the carrot of happiness (Brickman and Campbell 1971; Eysenck 1990).
What draws us toward accumulation?
Studies have demonstrated a relationship between self-esteem and the desire to self-enhance through the accumulation of material possessions (Park and John 2010). Consumer goods have been found to function as a compensatory salve that reduces the distress caused by the gap between how one perceives oneself and how one desires to view oneself (Mandel et al 2014). Uncertainty and self-doubt have also been linked to materialism (Change and Arkin 2002), as has narcissism (Cisek et al 2014).
Pause and … Give
Selfishness may not be our first instinct. Results from a series of ten experiments show that people who deliberate longer about how much to contribute, give less than those who decide quickly. Selfishness appears, thus, to be a function of mulling over the decision, whereas the intuitive gut response tends to be one of more generosity (Rand et al 2012). Automatic, intuitive processes, as opposed to deliberative decision making, were also found to be associated with occurrences of high-stakes altruism in which individuals risked their lives to save others (Rand and Epstein 2014).
Becoming less materialistic predicts improvements in well-being (Kasser et al 2014). Having less has also been found to correlate with giving more (Piff et al 2010), reminding us perhaps that we all have access to a wealth of generosity.
Read about Dariel Garner, a multimillionaire who chose fifteen years ago to give up his position within the top 100 wealthiest Americans to be at the bottom one percent financially. He lives in New Mexico, works in social activism and reports now living a much richer life.
Kindness is contagious! A recent study by Chancellor et al (2018) published in the Journal of Positive Psychology not only found increases in the wellbeing of employees at Coca Cola who conducted acts of kindness toward others on the job, but also found increases in the well-being of the observers of those who did the kind deeds.
Those who observed by close proximity such prosocial actions were significantly more likely themselves to initiate similar behaviors toward others on the job, propagating generosity in the workplace. Results confirmed the researchers hypothesis that “watching someone exhibit kindness produces more of a positive impact than watching someone receive kindness” (p.279).
Elevation, warmth, and happiness are experienced when we watch others acting with generosity and consideration towards others. We are inspired to behave in kind. Whether it has to do with “emotional contagion” or simply being reminded of our inherent prosocial make-up, the benefits of kindness to the giver, receiver and observer are positive and influential.
On the theme of what we watch matters….
The Constructive Journalism project attempts to bring about a balance in journalism (countering a current negativity bias) by training media organizations to attend to positive and solution-focused elements of their reporting. The project supports a proactive approach, profiling not only what isn’t going well in the world, but also what helps society flourish, as informed by empirical research. Studies of constructive journalism have begun to show that such an emphasis can lead to increased social engagement, optimism, coping and social cohesion (Jackson 2016).
Check it out at : https://www.constructivejournalism.org/about/
Did you know that volunteering is good for your body? REALLY good for it. In fact, volunteering just two hours each week (or 100 hours a year) has been found in studies to be associated with significant health benefits (Lum and Lightfoot, 2005; Luoh and Herzog, 2002).
Research has found that volunteers report greater physical well-being and life satisfaction than do non-volunteers (Van Willigen 2000). Those over the age of 60 who volunteer report higher levels of health and physical functioning, and lower levels of depression than those who don’t volunteer (Morrow-Howell et al., 2003).
Additionally, helping others who suffer from similar ailments has been found to help reduce one’s own suffering. Those with chronic pain, for example, experience declines in their own pain intensity and a decreased level of disability when serving as peer volunteers for others with chronic pain (Arnstein et al., 2002).
Volunteering can even prolong life!
One study found that those who volunteered for at least 100 hours per year were one-third as likely as non-volunteers to die within the time frame studied (Luoh and Herzog, 2002). Other research found that those who volunteered with two or more organizations experienced 44 percent lower mortality rates over a five-year period than those elderly persons who did not volunteer (Oman et al., 1999).
The fact that helping others also beneficially impacts our own mental and physical health reminds us that the division between self and other may not be as separate as it seems. Shared experience entails the sharing of positive emotions and a sense of connection, essential to us as social creatures. Volunteering also helps provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment (Greenfield and Marks, 2004).
Given the research findings, perhaps volunteering should be recommended by health practitioners as part of a basic care plan, along with the usual guidelines for diet modification and exercise. Check-ups could thus extend beyond one’s individual physicality to include one’s larger relational, interconnected body.
Here’s an example of how eager people are to help and the difference volunteering can make. Several months ago, Dr. Billy Earle Dade Middle School in Texas sponsored a “Breakfast with Dad” event, inviting the children to bring in their fathers to serve as role models and mentors for the boys. Given the number of students without fathers at home or with working fathers unable to attend, the school posted an ad on social media inviting 50 men from the larger community to come volunteer at the event.
Over six hundred men appeared at the event! They represented a vast a diversity of backgrounds and life experience and were excited to mentor the students. Some voiced wanting to “give back,” grateful for the presence of male role models in their own lives. They gave advice and guidance to the middle school boys, and all stood arm in arm together at the end of the event in a large circle that warmed the auditorium and the hearts of all present.
The fact that death is as natural as birth in no way lessens our fear or denial of it.
And yet, our sadness or grief in the face of loss is a testament to our enduring interconnectedness. It confirms the sacred continuation of relationship beyond the longevity of our physical form.
The timeless bonds between beings are not just limited to humans. Elephants have been observed to perform burial rituals for their dead and to return to the place of the death even after removal of remains. Other animals such as dolphins, whales and baboons have been found to carry dead offspring with them for days.
Among many animals, emotional attachment after death is evident in the behavioral changes that surviving family members exhibit (Safina 2015), even though there may be great variation across and within species in the experience vs expression of emotion (Ristau 2016).
In people, acknowledging grief in its various forms and phases has been found to help with acceptance and recovery from loss. Studies of mourning rituals have shown that, in the wake of the death of a loved one, people benefit from such rituals (Norton and Gino 2014). Not only does ritual provide a sense of control, but more importantly perhaps, honoring the deceased reminds us of the ever-present quality of love itself: that love does in fact survive the harsh physicality of death.
“Loved and Lost” is an online platform created by Manchester based documentary photographer Simon Bray that posts photos of individuals with their loved ones who have died, and the life stories that accompany the photos. Bray invites participants to revisit the location in which the photograph was originally taken and to reflect on their memories and experience of love and loss.
Bray states: “May this be a process through which a loved one can be remembered and through which memories can be re-lived. Even though the pain of the loss may remain, may this go some way in relieving the hurt and the stigma of death.”
Check it out: http://www.lovedandlostproject.co.uk
In the academic halls and laboratories of graduate school, I remember how extreme busyness had been a badge of honor. The busier one was with their research, their teaching, their committees, the more successful or valued the student or faculty member appeared to be.
I soon discovered this same type of standard (the busier the better) evident outside of school as well – within the climate at the medical center where I worked, on the playground with parents championing unsustainable extra-curricular obligations on behalf of their children, and even at the meditation center with practitioners shoe -horning in a steady stream of day-longs and residential retreats into an already spiritually-bursting calendar.
Busyness, defined not by hard work but by multitasking (e.g., Charlton 2006), has been promoted by our culture and internalized by individuals as a yardstick for self-worth. And yet, cognitive science has shown that busyness and multitasking come at a cost (Courage et al 2015). For example, attending to two or more tasks at once can impair one’s performance. And, simply living near a busy road has been found to correlate with an increased risk of cardiac disease and hypertension (Pindus, Orru and Modig 2015)!
On the other hand, increased mindfulness of one’s experience (e.g., paying attention to one thing at a time) as well as acceptance of it has been found to reduce biological stress reactivity, lowering cortisol levels and systolic blood pressure (Lindsay et al 2018). Slowing down and savoring events in the present moment has been found to enhance positive experiences (Quoidbach et al 2010).
The Slow Movement was launched in the late eighties, emphasizing a thoughtful pacing and savoring of life in its many expressions such as in food, fashion, media, counseling, travel, gardening, education, among others. The movement prioritizes the spirit in which life is lived above the speed in which it is executed, the quality and sustainability of experience over the quantity of output.
Bravo to the Slow City or CittaSlow Movement that has expanded to included ten countries around the world promoting the following mission:
“The recurrent theme of Cittaslow is identity: the soul of the local communities engages with modernity without being unduly influenced by globalization. Our responsibility towards the natural world and the coming generations requires us to be frugal and concerned for Mother Earth. Rediscovering Slowness means choosing a future of quality, for ourselves and, in the spirit of solidarity, for others.
Working towards sustainability, defending the environment and reducing our excessive ecological footprint mean committing ourselves to rediscover traditional know-how and to make the most of our resources through recycling and reuse, applying the new technologies. The final objective is lasting development (not synonymous with growth) and peace between peoples. This is what the Slow mayors do every day through hundreds of projects throughout the world.”
Check it out: www.cittaslow.org