Many people are under the impression that to be considered creative, you must be able to make something beautiful and intricate—that creativity is defined by what you put out, and that it is a skill that you are either “good” or “bad” at.
However, this conceptualization of creativity cannot be further from the truth. Every human is inherently creative, and practicing creativity is one of the only psychological qualities that is connected to helping us find meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and happiness, and more.
According to neuroscientist David Eagleman, creativity is like the “cognitive operating software” of our thoughts. It’s constantly working in the background and will light up in our brains whenever we imagine something new. You are being creative whenever you take a different route to work or brainstorm about how you can break certain habits.
“The drive to create [something] new is part of our biological makeup,” Dr. Eagleman says. “We surround ourselves with things that have never existed before, while pigs and llamas and goldfish do not.”
So, if you think that because you believe you are “not a creative person” that the physical and mental health benefits of practicing creativity (such as lowering cortisol levels and improving cognition and memory) are out of your reach, then think again. Here are four ways you can embrace your creative self.
Reframe your definition of “creativity”
Creativity is most talked about in terms of output, with a focus on arts and innovation. This is called “Big C” creativity.
“Little C” creativity, on the other hand, is about the everyday moments that shape your perspective on the world. Included in “Little C” creativity are the creative thinking practices that pop up when you’re exploring a new part of the city or when you decide how to decorate your home.
If you think of yourself as lacking in creativity, then perhaps what you need to begin with is reframing your personal definition of what makes someone creative. Here are some questions to ask yourself to explore this further:
- Has anyone ever told you that you’re not creative—implicitly or explicitly?
- What impact has that had on your ability to engage in it?
- Or maybe you’re on the other side of the spectrum—do you have perfectionist qualities around creativity? What stories can you let go of to reap its well-being benefits?
Focus on enjoyment, not success
Creativity is also about being open to new experiences and ideas. Try to approach life with this mindset of openness, and an attitude that is willing to enjoy engaging in something new.
Recognize how you express creativity in different activities, such as dancing around your house to your favorite playlist or playing with your pet.
Make it an everyday practice
Instead of pressuring yourself into creativity by planning big “creative” moments, like a daily painting session that you may never actually get around to, incorporate creativity in small ways by focusing your energy on “Little C Creativity” instead. Turning “Little C Creativity” into an everyday practice can be as simple as finding a way to reuse an item that you’d normally dispose of, such as cutting up an old t-shirt into kitchen rags or decorating empty wine bottles and using them as candle holders.
Another practical idea is exploring new routes to a place you visit daily, such as the dog park where you take your pet or finding a new path to take on your way to work.
Share creativity with your friends
Some of the most famous creative minds throughout history have often been encouraged in their creativity while collaborating with others and have been motivated or inspired by witnessing other people’s work.
Research shows that creativity has social and relational benefits, so try and involve your friends in your personal creativity movement by setting up a paint night or by getting together to share your favorite pieces of music.