Why a creative side project could benefit your health – and your career

Posted by
Helen Booth

Desk-bound millennials could be on the brink of a ‘creativity crisis’ according to new research.

A recent survey discovered that 64% of people felt that they were failing to live up to their full creative potential, and that figure increased to 71% among 18-34 year olds. The study, carried out by the people behind the art app Bloom, also found that nearly three quarters of those surveyed regretted not opting for more creative careers.

The cost of having limited opportunities to express our creativity is becoming clearer. 85% of survey respondents believed that working on a creative activity allowed them to feel more relaxed and helped to relieve stress – suggesting that a life devoid of that creativity might have a negative effect on happiness and wellbeing.

Writing for Female First, psychologist Honey Langcaster-James explains why it’s important to find some form of creative outlet.

“Taking some time out to be creative simply for creativity’s sake can lead to greater productivity in your work, even if you’re not in a typically creative field. This is because it can help you maintain cognitive clarity and optimal wellbeing which help you in all aspects of your life,” says Langcaster-James.

A creative side project might benefit your health - and your career

Poet Caroline Bird reflects that some of us have neglected our creative sides since childhood, because other things now seem more ‘important’.

“Sometimes when we get older the ‘real world’ gets its claws into us,” Bird tells Refinery29. “We start using words like ‘outlet’ instead of ‘right’. Because I think it is a right. Everyone needs to express who they are, and the ways are countless: some people express themselves through movement and muscle, some people knit words together, some people are captivating in the pub… but the important thing, I think, is to know you have the right to be heard and that you have something to share.”

Creative activities that force us to close our laptops and put down our phones can also induce a meditative, zen-like state of mind. For example, an online study that surveyed over 3,500 knitters, published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, found a relationship between knitting frequency and feeling calm. Respondents noted that knitting was “soothing,” “restful,” and helped them unwind from the pressures of work. In the same study, researchers also found that knitting led to an increase in happiness among almost all participants.

Meanwhile, experts advise that working on creative projects either at work or in our free time is likely to have a positive effect in our professional lives. 

“Humans need to be taken out of regular patterns of behaviour or a comfort zone so that we have the opportunity to learn new skills,” says clinical neuropsychologist Dr Priyanka Pradhan. “This then gives us a sense of accomplishment and mastery which boosts confidence and resilience.”

Ready to introduce some creativity into your life? Start with these three tips for having a creative moment every day, discover the apps that will feed your imagination, then try one of these innovative side projects.

Images: iStock, Pexels