With the Summer holidays in full swing and no doubt some very bored, energetic and restless children (and tired parents!), we’re focusing our blog this week on the benefits of getting creative and how this can have a positive and beneficial effect on our overall feelings of happiness and general well-being.
Some of us, or our children, might identify as creative people – perhaps being artsy and crafty, great at writing, music or dancing or just thinking outside the box. The truth is though we don’t need any particular talents in this area to reap the benefits. Just a willingness to explore is all it takes!
And, with lots of families having time together over the holidays, what better time to try!
So, what is creativity and why is it so good for us?
Getting creative enables us to see the world with a different set of eyes – it gives us a new and fresh perspective on the world around us. Not only that, but it can allow us to explore and project a different part of ourselves that we might not otherwise show, allowing deeper emotions to be explored and released.
In fact, many people find that it is during their darkest, most difficult times, that their creative energies really flow. Take well-renowned singers and songwriters, for example, who create some of their best work as a result of pain, hardship or sorrow. This is because being creative allows us to ‘voice’ feelings and emotions in ways we might otherwise feel unable to express – and this is even more true when it comes to children!
Three quarters of the brain develops after a child is born, until children reach early adulthood around their early twenties. It is during this time that creativity or creative play stimulates receptors in the brain that help it to develop connections between nerve cells. This impacts on a child’s ability to process information in a range of ways and areas of development, including:
- Social development and interaction with others
- Emotional development
- Cognitive development and thinking skills
- Physical development
- Intellectual development
So, not only can getting creative be really helpful during difficult times or times of stress, but we are helping our children to lay the foundations for good all-round health.
And by encouraging our children to establish creative habits as a fun form of self-expression, we can also support them in better managing their emotional well-being and mental health in the long term, which is so important.
Creativity can help children (and parents) to:
- Reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
- Relieve stress
- Process emotions, including trauma
- Increase positive emotions
- Solve problems by enabling us to think in new and different ways
- Improve the function of the immune system
- Improve relationships and develop social skills
- Unblock old, unhealthy patterns of thinking
- Relieve feelings of boredom and increase motivation
- Increase self-awareness and self-esteem
So, what effect does being creative have on the brain?
Creativity sparks off different regions of the brain, including those that process emotion:
- When we are engaged in creativity, the regions of the brain responsible for anxiety are calmed. The areas responsible for processing emotions are activated at this time, meaning that activities such as art or music can allow a person to feel greater levels of peace and relaxation.
- General brain function is improved. It has been found that those who enjoy getting creative by playing an instrument have greater connectivity between the left and right regions of the brain. This improves overall brain function, which leads to improved mental health.
- Creativity involves an interaction of different brain networks. This includes our Executive Functioning Network, which enables us to process information and hold things in our working memory. The Default Network is also engaged during times of creativity. This part of the brain is also highly active during daydreaming and relaxation (such as that utilised in our Youth Fairy sessions). This part of the brain allows us to think about and consider future goals, solve problems and heightens our feelings of compassion, enabling us to imagine ourselves in different situations – which is great for problem-solving!
- Our brain processes language through metaphor. Being creative and artistic, such as through writing, art or music, can allow the brain to process information in a way we cannot otherwise do as it engages the left side of the brain which is responsible for language and speech.
We can see then that being creative might help us or our children to think about situations in a different way or process and work through difficult feelings and emotions, which is vital for our feelings of happiness and well-being.
So, now we can see the many benefits of encouraging our children to get creative this summer holiday, how can we get started?
- Make a piece of art work together. This might be a giant-sized piece the whole family can get involved in or something you work on quietly with your child together. Remember, this does not have to be a work of art – it’s the benefit of engaging in the activity that counts!
- Listen to or explore different pieces of classical music together. Whilst this might not seem an obvious choice of activity to do with your child, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of listening to classical music and the positive effects it has on the brain. This includes improved concentration and the production of calming chemicals. When we listen to classical music, our brain releases the pleasure-seeking chemical, Dopamine, which in turn improves our mood. If there is also a task or chore that needs doing, especially one that requires mental effort, classical music makes the perfect background choice for its positive effects on thinking and clarity of thought!
- Learn a fun dance together. In the wave of YouTube and TicTok, there are plenty of children and teenagers who would be keen to get involved in this one! Whilst getting mum or dad involved might be embarrassing, it’s a great opportunity to bring a sense of fun and laughter to all the family!
- Get out in nature and take photos. Perhaps getting your child way from their phone or tablet is a challenge so why not bring it with them and involve it in something creative! Ask your child to be responsible for taking the photos and discuss how you could use them creatively afterwards. It’s a great way to get children and teenagers involved in something they might not otherwise want to do, too.
- Learn more about your child’s interests. Perhaps they’re great at writing, spend hours in their room drawing or making art, excel in dancing, enjoy writing or are creative and talented on the computer. As busy as things might be, try to spend time learning more about what makes them feel completely absorbed in the moment. Taking time to join in with an activity that brings them so much joy is a great way to connect and can often lead to some brilliant conversations which you might not otherwise have.
There are endless creative activities you could get your child involved in and these are simply a few to get you started!
The leading charity, Place2Be, who support many Mental Health Awareness days have a wealth of interesting activities for getting your child creative, supporting their mental health and well-being and you can find them here:
Enjoy getting creative!