• Creativity is most likely to be linked to artistic pursuits, but really we can be creative in all fields

  • Being creative can help us problem-solve and innovate

  • Julia Jones offers four ways you can access your creative side

What does it mean to be creative, and what classifies one as having creativity? The dictionary cites that creativity is “the ability to use skill and imagination to produce something new or to produce art".

Often this produced value or worth does not have monetary or even highly tangible value, therefore it can be subjective. Based on this definition of creativity, surely all jobs are creative, at least at one point or another. All require imagination and original ideas to come into existence; from research, to teaching, to business. Though we don't seem to view creativity in this way, generally assigning it to the realm of artists, poets, and musicians. 

Creativity and mental health

It's no secret that some of the most famous artists (from comedians, musicians, writers, mathematicians) of all time were allegedly plagued with delusions, depression, hallucinations. From the likes of Michelangelo, Emily Dickinson, Frida Kahlo, Michael Jackson and Albert Einstein, Ludwig Boltzmann and so many others, who through their work, contributed greatly to enrich human existence.

The words of Aristotle almost ring true: “No great genius, has ever existed without a strain of madness.” However, this is not to mean that you cannot access creativity and drive innovation whilst experiencing good mental health.

Not every creative person lives with a psychological disorder, nor does engagement with creativity imply psychological distress. Furthermore, individuals who have a diagnosis of a psychological disorder may find that their most creative moments come in times that they are feeling well.

For many, being creative allows the freedom to express themselves through the work they produce. Being creative can be a form of healing.

Creativity is an important skill, one that offers freedom to explore one’s imagination and, where possible, to positively reflect this in reality, for the benefit of others or for self. This freedom could help us all be more productive in business, marketing, and in life. 

I believe within all of us all lies genius, so how can we embrace our inner genius for creative good and wellness?

Practical tips to harness your own creative side

1. Free-styling different mediums to know what works best for you

There are many different ways to be creative through different mediums, whether visual or auditory or in writing, but creativity is not limited to these realms. Even thinking can be a form of creativity that can be implemented in any setting. Creative thinking can be used to problem-solve in personal and professional situations. 

So try a few things and see what works for you: create a podcast, or design a storyboard; try painting, using colours to express your emotion; or give poetry a go. 

2. Ambient background sounds increase creativity

A 2012 study showed that moderate sound increases our ability to process abstract information. 

It may be that working in a café, immersed in the background noise, can actually be a useful tool for sparking your creativity. It could be that you create your own special soundtrack when doing your work.

3. Dim lighting can also be a stimulus that increase creativity

The lightbulb is associated with creativity, that Eureka moment, but a 2017 study revealed that it's dim lighting that actually sparks creativity in lots of people.

Tackle your next project in a room where you are able to create mood lighting or have a soft lampshade at your desk in a darkened room, and see whether this creates the right atmosphere for your best creative moments. 

4. Do what’s best for you

With creativity, there is no one size fits all solution. For you, creativity could come from a combination of the tips above, or perhaps be something different and unique to you, like the need to brainstorm when in the shower, or the need to be in motion, taking long walks or train journeys. There is no right or wrong solution to creating the prefect environment for you to nourish your creativity. For now, I wish you the best of luck on your creative pursuits, above all else I hope it will bring you joy and healing. 

Julia Jones runs the Artful Mind Project for young people

Further reading

4 ways we block our creativity

Can creativity harm your mental health?

How I turned my anxiety into creativity

What does creativity look like in the brain?