Mindfulness is a popular topic at the moment. Research demonstrates positive effects on mental health, such as this meta-analysis by Hofmann et al., 2010, and supports benefits for physical health parameters, including cardiovascular health in this study by Loucks et al., 2014.
I have posted before about the intersection between health and creativity.
So what about mindfulness and creativity?
Firstly, what is mindfulness?
Hofmann et al., 2010 describe mindfulness as
“a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment experience, including one’s sensations, thoughts, bodily states, consciousness, and the environment, while encouraging openness, curiosity, and acceptance (Bishop et al., 2004; Kabat-Zinn, 2003;Melbourne Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, 2006). Bishop and colleagues (2004) distinguished two components of mindfulness, one that involves self-regulation of attention and one that involves an orientation toward the present moment characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”
Simply put, being mindful is allowing yourself to be aware of and non-judgmentally experience the moment.
What does the research tell us about mindfulness and creativity?
Studies and articles have mostly focused on how mindfulness meditation can benefit creativity and/or creative thinking in the broader sense.
If you wish to explore the psychology, theories include that mindfulness may enhance creativity by reducing cognitive rigidity (Greenberg, Reiner, and Meiran, 2012) and facilitating divergent thinking/reducing convergent thinking (Capurso, Fabbro and Crescentini, 2013).
George Hofmann writes in his post on How Mindfulness Can Help Your Creativity:
“Researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition of Leiden University in the Netherlands found a tremendous impact of focused-attention (mindfulness) and open-monitoring meditation (observing without judging) on creativity.
“First, Open-Minded meditation induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking, a style of thinking that allows many new ideas of being generated. Second, Focused Attention meditation does not sustain convergent thinking, the process of generating one possible solution to a particular problem.” Meditation may equal more ideas.”
Or for a good post on how mindfulness can boost creativity, this post from the Mindfulness Workbook For Dummies may inspire you. I especially agree with the tip about not having to meditate to be mindful. (I confess I am not very good at just sitting and meditating.)
I can easily understand how quietening your thoughts can reduce distraction and open your mind to creative possibilities.
But can creative pursuits help you achieve a state of mindfulness?
I couldn’t find any research on whether being creative can help you be mindful. (If you know of any, please point me in the right direction by posting a comment!)
So this is unapologetically not scientific, but my personal experience is that I need to be creative to be mindful.
By expressing my creativity I can access a deeper level of mindfulness. In fact when I manage to silence my internal critic and create in the moment, I achieve a state of mindfulness purer than that I have managed with mindfulness meditation and more satisfying creative work to boot.
Creativity and mindfulness are synergistic, not a linear relationship with one facilitating the other.
This description of mindfulness in drawing from The Centre for Mindfulness Studies comes close to how I feel when I write in the moment.
I don’t just need to be mindful to boost creativity; at least some of us need to be creative to enhance our mindfulness.
What is your experience of mindfulness and creativity?
I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please share them in the comments.
With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.
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© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith