Are Only Humans Creative? Plus, 6 Ways Creativity Improves Health

By SUE COLETTA

My husband and I recently watched an excellent documentary on Netflix entitled The Creative Brain. “Neuroscientist David Eagleman taps into the creative process of various innovators while exploring brain-bending, risk-taking ways to spark creativity.” 

I’ve written about creativity and the brain before, so I didn’t want to write another post on the same subject. Nonetheless, all creatives should find the show fascinating. But — yes, there’s a but — the narrator claims only humans possess the ability to create. I disagree. Creativity surrounds us. We just need to remain open to it.

I think we can all agree that dancing is a creative form of expression. So, if dance is part of the arts, then the Birds of Paradise are creative geniuses …

Now, let me ask you, do you think this little guy is creative or working only on instinct?

Side note: ladies, how cool would it be if men had to woo women in the same way? 😉

Let’s dive into the ocean. In South Carolina lives one pod of bottlenose dolphins whose creativity gains great rewards.

Think about this … If they’re working strictly on instinct, then why aren’t other dolphins hunting in the same way? This “beaching” activity can only be seen in this one pod.

Check out these creative thinkers …

What if an elephant painted a self-portrait, would it then mean she’s using her creativity?

Meet Suda …

If you’re short on time, jump ahead to 10:45 to see what she painted.

This Australian Satin Bower selectively steals from humans. The female he’s courting has a fondness for blue. Only blue. Another color might ruin the design.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my beloved crows. Crow nest building is serious business, but creativity also plays a role. Made of interlocking twigs gathered from surrounding trees and shrubs, they weave these twigs with metallic wire to strengthen the nest. Some crows even incorporate knotted lengths of thick plastic. But it’s their love of shiny objects that really speaks to their individuality and creativity.

How ‘bout an entire nest made of coat hangers? This magpie’s nest may not look very comfortable, but it’s creative!

That concludes the fun half of the post. Now here’s why creativity is good for you.

6 Ways Creativity Improves Health and Wellness

1) Increased Happiness

When you’re completely absorbed in a project, psychologists call this state Flow. Writers often refer to it as The Zone. For those unfamiliar with either term, have you ever been working on a project and completely lost all sense of time? That’s Flow. And Flow reduces anxiety, boosts your mood, and even slows your heartrate.

2) Reduces Dementia

Studies show that creative engagement not only reduces depression and isolation, but can also help dementia patients tap back in to their personalities and sharpen their senses.

3) Improves Mental Health

The average person has about 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% are exactly the same. A creative act such as writing helps focus the mind. Some compare creative engagement to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.

Creativity reduces anxiety, depression, stress, and can also help process trauma. Writing in particular helps to manage negative emotions in a productive way. Creating something through art (painting or drawing) can help people to express traumatic experiences that are too difficult to put in to words.

4) Boosts Immune System

Studies show, people who keep a daily journal have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. Experts don’t know why it works, but writing increases your CD4+ lymphocyte count — the key to your immune system.

Listening to music can also rejuvenate function in your immune system. Music affects our brains in complex ways, stimulating the limbic system and moderating our response to stressful stimuli.

5) Increases Intelligence

Studies show that people who play instruments have better connectivity between their left and right brains. The left brain is responsible for motor functions, the right brain focuses on melody. When the two hemispheres communicate, our cognitive function improves.

Writers use both hemispheres of the brain, as well. Muse on the right, the critic on the left.

6) Decreases Chronic Pain

People dealing with certain medical conditions that result in chronic pain showed improved pain control after expressing their feelings through the written word. Over a nine-week period, the test subjects also showed an overall decline in pain severity.

According to Medical News Today, “music may help to restore effective functioning in the immune system partly via the actions of the amygdala and hypothalamus. These brain regions are implicated in mood regulation and hormonal processes, as well as in the body’s inflammatory response.”

The world needs creatives.

Let’s nurture creativity rather than force our youth into professions they’re not passionate about. We’re not born creative. It’s a skill learned over time. As such, parents and/or mentors need to encourage creativity and allow our children and young adults to excel in the arts.

Need more motivation? No problem …

Now, go forth and create something amazing!

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10 thoughts on “Are Only Humans Creative? Plus, 6 Ways Creativity Improves Health

  1. Sue, great post as usual.

    I suspect we humans have a collective insecurity complex going. It’s as if admitting that other creatures are creative or have the ability to think somehow makes us less than we are. All silliness.

  2. I associate creativity with play. Creativity is just trying stuff–using your imagination. Dogs are a perfect example. That’s why watching them is so relaxing. They don’t know what’s going to happen when they take a swipe at that twangy door stop thing. So they have a go at it, and another. Beavers figure out how to make use of materials around them to build a dam and the examples go on. Basically, animals are creative but without all the psychological hang ups of humans. LOL!

  3. Sue, I love these videos! Especially the bird of paradise mating dance. Reminds me of that Gilbert & Sullivan tune: “Faint heart never won fair lady.”

    I do wonder about the elephant paintings. Hard to believe the elephants came up with that on their own. Do you suppose they get part of the profits when the handlers sell the paintings?

    I understand exercise stimulates creativity, so I’m on my way upstairs to the treadmill to put in a couple of miles. Maybe that will translate into a few ideas for my next book!

    Thanks for getting my synapses firing this morning!

    • You’re so welcome, Kay. The Birds of Paradise crack me up!

      I wondered about the elephant, but apparently, the other elephants were all drawing something different. I hope Suda at least gets a special treat for her paintings. 😀 I’d rather see elephants living free. Let’s hope she’s well taken care of.

      Enjoy your workout! I just stole an hour to lay in the sun for the first time this year. The sun and warmth has such rejuvenating qualities, at least for me it does. Now, back to my WIP …

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  5. Thanks very much for posting this, Sue. Animals are very creative, and I’m glad to see all the fine examples you’ve shared with us. It’s wonderful to hear, too, that creativity has a beneficial effect on health. I was especially struck by these two statements: “Studies show, people who keep a daily journal have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. Experts don’t know why it works, but writing increases your CD4+ lymphocyte count — the key to your immune system.”

    I wonder if the people who kept a journal were typing it or writing by hand. I wonder if the method makes a difference, or if both forms of writing have the same benefits.

    • I wondered the same thing, Catherine, so I looked into it. Any type of journaling, typed or handwritten, has the same affect on our immune systems. Writing by hand, however, helps with memory. We absorb what we write by hand better than what we type. Which I found interesting.

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