By Cynthia Ray
The world is fascinated with creativity and how it works, perhaps because it has an almost magical quality to it, where ideas and inspiration seem to arise out of nowhere. Science continues to study, research and even map the brains of creative people, uncovering new and amazing things about creative expression.
Research has validated what many cultures throughout time have known, that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to health, well-being and healing.
That making art and participating in creative endeavors, whether it is photography, collage, music, dancing, painting or writing has mental and physical health benefits is now accepted as a scientific realty. Creating art and music enhances health and wellness, and specifically, expressive writing is linked with improved immune system response.
One does not have to be especially creative or artistic to reap the benefits. Anyone can journal. Writing is an excellent choice because it doesn’t require any special equipment to begin, all you have to do is open the computer, or pick up a pen and piece of paper and let it flow.
In addition to positive changes in our mental and emotional states, creative expression and expressive writing effect actual physical changes in the body, enhancing immune response and speeding healing from trauma and injury.
This excert from an article titled Make More Art-the Health Benefits of Creativity illustrates the effect.
“The act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system. In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body.”
Another scholarly article documents how one experiment with expressive writing worked, and the amazing positive results.
“The researcher had students write about their deepest thoughts and feelings on an important emotional issue, with the only rule being that “once you begin writing, continue to do so until your [15- to 30-minute] time is up.” Dozens of replications of these types of studies have demonstrated that emotional writing can influence frequency of physician visits, immune function, stress hormones, blood pressure, and a number of social, academic, and cognitive variables. These effects have been shown to hold across cultures, age groups, and diverse samples.
Since I work in healthcare, I receive notifications of interesting health topics almost daily, and last week, I was sent a link to a study where researchers identified the top 10 things that contribute to an individuals likelihood to live longer. They were surprised to discover that the top two contributors to reduced mortality were having a close friend or person upon whom you could rely, and talk to, and connection with others in a real way. the NY times article says:
“In a study of 7,000 men and women in Alameda County, Calif., begun in 1965, Lisa F. Berkman and S. Leonard Syme found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,” John Robbins recounted in his marvelous book on health and longevity, “Healthy at 100.”
This major difference in survival occurred regardless of people’s age, gender, health practices or physical health status. In fact, the researchers found that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits,” Mr. Robbins wrote. However, he quickly added, “Needless to say, people with both healthful lifestyles and close social ties lived the longest of all.”
Writing is magic, and so is loving connection-the combination is potent. My take away is this: Writers could live almost forever if they spend part of the day writing, and the other part connecting with real live humans.