Why is creativity important? According to an article published in the NIH Online library titled “Creativity as a Stepping Stone toward a Brighter Future,” creativity has the power to help people lead happier and more meaningful lives. People sometimes describe themselves as “right brain” or “left brain” dominant to make excuses for why they aren’t “good” at art or mathematics, for example. Would you be surprised to learn that when you are creative, you are using & strengthening both sides of the brain simultaneously?

In the 1800s, scientists attempted to identify dominant personality traits using our brain’s left and right sides. They surmised that (supposedly) left-brained people are more logical while right-brain people are more creative. But think about this: if a person decides to paint a still life of a bowl of fruit or vegetables, what do they need to do? Which side of their brain are they using? They select the bowl or basket and arrange and rearrange the fruit or vegetables according to how it looks to them. They choose colors, paint or torn paper, a canvas or simple piece of paper, a background, and visualize the finished product. Are they only using one side of their brain?

The early scientists were not wrong in their thinking, as it is true that each hemisphere of the brain controls different functions. Over time, we have learned that people use both sides of their brains to solve complex problems, invent new things, or innovate. Elizabeth Waters, a neuroscientist and educator working to enrich and expand science education, hosts a TED Talk titled “Left Brain Right Brain Myth.” This video is a great watch, regardless of your position on the brain.

The brain is the physical place that coordinates our moves, our activities, and our impulses. The mind resides in the brain, and we use our minds to reason and think. The mind can control what we do, what we believe, and why we do certain things. The mind is thought, perception, emotion, determination, memory, and imagination within the brain.

Since the brain is a physical object, we need to keep our brain as healthy as possible. That way, we can use our minds to continue to understand, interpret, and help us adjust to our environment. What are the benefits of using creativity to solve problems or create something new? The benefits of being creative can be informal as well as formal.

Formal Benefits:

  • Being creative makes people feel happier
  • Less depression (I feel more energized)
  • More social engagement (group projects encourage engaging with others, sharing ideas, & contributing to something large)
  • Better emotional balance (focusing on new things)
  • More responsiveness (tactile & sensory)
  • Increased independence (enhance self-confidence)
  • Reduced cognitive decline

Informal Benefits:

  • Cognitive stimulation (thinking of things that are new to me or that I haven’t thought about in a long time)
  • Making mistakes, solving problems
  • Connecting with others who are thinking creatively
  • Expressing yourself
  • Keeping current (learning about new things)
  • Building friendships

Keep in mind that creativity is everywhere. Look around you; what do you see that you consider “creative?” We can experience the same feelings of creating something new simply by admiring the work of others – famous artists, POP artists, sculptors, and cartoon characters (yes, Snoopy is a very creative character), so don’t leave Art Appreciation out of your creative program.