Living in a success-driven culture, it can be easy to let creative pursuits slip off the agenda. However, we know that creative activities that allow us to get in ‘the zone’ by focusing on something we love doing, play an important role in building positivity and connection, and calming our stress response. Here we talk about unlocking the power of creativity and how it can support our health and wellbeing.
The impact of dance on our health and wellbeing
Gregory Vuyani Maqoma emphasises the importance of dance for healing: “As we dance with our bodies, tumbling in space and tangling together, we become a force of movement weaving hearts, touching souls and providing healing that is so desperately needed.”
Maqoma’s view is supported by research which provides sound evidence for the positive impact of dance and dance movement therapy on our wellbeing and mental health. A review of 23 studies found that engaging in dance improves self-reported quality of life, wellbeing and positive mood, whilst reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Social dance has also been found to have a significant impact on successful ageing through improved wellbeing and a sense of youthfulness.
This message might remind you of the film Billy Elliot, in which a troubled 11-year-old boy, growing up amidst the turmoil of pit closures and miners’ strikes, discovers a love for dance and secretly pursues lessons, despite his father’s prejudice against it. The young Billy has to overcome multiple barriers including his father’s resistance to hold onto what is important to him. This film neatly illustrates how creative acts can have such an important role in helping us to manage and grow through the challenges of life.
The power of creativity in the arts
So if dancing is not your thing, you might want to consider other forms of creativity that could be equally good for your health and wellbeing:
Singing together is an activity that people have engaged in throughout history and is a good source of comfort and solace in times of hardship.
For example, during the pandemic people in Denmark gathered around the television every morning to join in a singing session, known as morning song. Originating during WW2, this type of shared activity brings people together during difficult times to provide a sense of community and support, despite people being isolated from one another.
In a study of 169 participants, researchers found that choral singing provided benefits across multiple domains including self-reported improvements in social, physiological, emotional and cognitive functioning.
Playing or listening to music has also been found to reduce stress and enhance feelings of wellbeing.
Music is hugely beneficial to our self-identity, evoking memories and strong associations with our lives, and helping to connect us with other people.
In older adults, music has been found to play an important role in helping people manage the challenges of later life, enhancing feelings of competency and independence.
Other forms of creativity
Creativity comes in all shapes and sixes and covers a broad spectrum of activities – writing a poem for a friend’s birthday, modifying a recipe to include ingredients at hand, or writing a song or story to share with friends or family. Evidence suggests that whether we are young or old, able-bodied or disabled, healthy or facing multiple health challenges, engaging in some form of creativity will help to build resilience.
Making space to be creative, to play and explore new ideas, to get yourself in ‘the zone’, to focus and be interested, will grow positive emotions. And we know that the experience of positive emotions is associated with a calming of the stress response. They are really important for our physical and emotional health, to brave the storms we encounter through life and emerge resilient once they have passed.
If you'd like to know more about our stress interventions, get in touch.