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Spreading the Creative Message

and the benefits to our physical health and mental well-being

· Health,Events

As part of the suite of services I offer, one of the most enjoyable is the in-person presentations that have over the years grown into a substantive element of my work.

There’s a keen interest in the fundamental question that I posed in The Creative Advantage (book 1) that is, ‘What are some people so amazingly creative and why do so many of us think we’re just not creative?’

The 'Keep Calm and Get Creative’ presentation explores how we can develop creativity, become better problem solvers and also how we might use this to our advantage throughout our lives.

Over 2022-23, while delivering these presentations, a overwhelming interest has come from the library sector. They’re interested in the book series, and more importantly in creating safe environments that promote discussion by inviting authors to engage with their communities of interest.

By providing free and equitable access to information many have noted the key role libraries play are as nodes for connection and in creating literate environments. I’ve been thrilled with the stimulating discussions and questions both from the librarians and attendees during presentations, particularly with more mature audiences who attend for pleasure and self-education.

So in 2024 this led to the creation of additional presentation topics geared towards the health and well-being benefits of creativity and more specifically how we can maximise our creativity as we age.

For example, a popular presentation covers these key topics

  • How we can craft a healthier mindset
  • The benefits of creative activities on mental health
  • The latest innovative approaches to incorporating the arts into healthcare
  • How we can utilise the arts to assist in learning.
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At a recent session I found that overwhelmingly the idea that the arts, including dance and music are linked to a healthier mindset was understood and actively pursued by participants. They were particularly curious about the intersection of creativity, well-being and the growing evidence demonstrating that creativity can be also be associated with increased happiness and mental health.

Some discussion centered on furthering their ideas on engaging in creative activities that have been attributed to improving rates of depression, reducing the body’s response to stress, assisting with cognitive decline, boosting the immune system and an increase in happiness.

Participating in the arts through everyday little-c creative activities and utilising the creative potential that we all possess at any age, by engaging in activities like dancing, drawing, painting, performing and more broadly craft making, are being understood as an essential part of a holistic healthcare system.

We also discussed research that points to hand-based craft activities and their direct and quantifiable benefits through their meditative action, activating brain areas that correspond, and even contributing to a sense of calm and an improved emotional state.

The research also shows that art-based engagement has significant positive effects on mental health, with evidence that

  • Music engagement can decrease anxiety and calm neural activity,
  • Visual arts therapy can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness,
  • Movement-based creative expression can relieve stress, and
  • Expressive writing can help one to process life events and can positively impact mental health.

Evidence also suggests that experience in the arts may facilitate creative thinking and effective problem-solving. The findings of the American National Science Foundation found training in an art-based discipline shares neural networks with other higher cognitive functions. This enhances the learning effects, strengthens the brain’s attention system, which in turn can improve cognition more generally.

Biologically we share 98 per cent of our genetic material with chimpanzees. While chimpanzees may express some original behaviours, they can’t express these or create cultures with these thoughts. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the concept of flow, says that the privilege of being human is not just because we think original ideas, but because we can judge and evaluate our thoughts and record and preserve them in a culture.

What makes us different from other life forms is the result of creative thought, and the cultural and social systems that we build with them.

I end the presentation with a quote from the master of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who writes:

The creative process is what makes us totally human, and can make us happy despite all of the things that can go wrong in our lives, including death and old age. It is when we are creating that our lives are most fulfilled. By understanding how the creative process works, we have a chance to learn how to improve the quality of life for everyone, and especially for our children.

For more information about the presentations, contact me at

Or for a free resource check out a curated research piece: How the arts are changing the way we understand health and mental wellbeing