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.
Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other related posts include Where health and creativity intersect and The healing power of creativity.
With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.
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© 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith
Everything you’ve written here struck a chord with me on a personal level, Jacquie. When you don’t judge the thought in the moment, but just go with it, you can keep going with that thought and come to understand yourself so much better. Funnily enough, I did the creative thing first and found mindfulness from that. I agree, too, that one reinforces the other in a self-perpetuating cycle. I’ll go off and read the links now …
It’s great to hear from you – thanks so much for sharing your experience. I especially like the concept of mindfulness and creativity reinforcing each other in a self-perpetuating cycle. Powerful stuff!
Happy creative mindfulness to you!
Great post, Jacquie. I’m inclined to agree with you that creativity fosters mindfulness. I’ve found that when journalling or ‘playing’ with words to create poetry I become totally absorbed in the moment. I’m able to enter a state of ‘flow’ that seems to make the outside world stand still. It can be quite blissful.
Many a cup of tea has gone stone cold when I’m thus engaged!
The blissful feeling of the world standing still while you create is a very evocative and peaceful image! Something for those who haven’t experienced it to aspire to indeed.
Thanks so much for adding your perception – I really appreciate hearing from you.
Well, if creativity brings focus and flow, then it is a mindful pursuit, indeed! I also (still) have trouble meditating in the sitting-still manner, so I find my mindfulness as I walk, do house chores, as I take the dog out, even as I drive (yes, hard to believe, but it is a time of focus and flow, too, no?). Whatever works, in whichever direction!
Wonderful examples of mindfulness in motion!
I am especially impressed by mindful driving! You must have the technique nailed …
The closest I have come is consciously put myself in a place of just going with the flow and not stressing in a bumper to bumper traffic jam when I have someplace to be (as everyone does!) – just sit in the moment because there is nothing else you can do about it. I can’t wait to see if I can apply it on a daily basis, although luckily I don’t have far to drive most days.
I can only wonder if we would have a lot less road rage if that were more widely practiced!
Thanks for your comment.
Great post! In “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle states that “nothing creative comes from the mind” and I totally agree. To think is to judge and in order to be creative there needs to be a state of non judgement and lack of fear, and that requires us to be in the moment and not think about whether what we’re doing is right or wrong or whether anyone will like it.
I do meditate and it helps me tap into my “muse”. My brain is always all over the place and I need to sit and breathe, and then the ideas just flow. I can focus on writing and time flies without any conscious thought.
What a wonderful quote – many thanks for sharing Tolle’s fine words, Delise. It sounds like you have learnt how to tap into your creative muse with great success and I do appreciate you letting us in on your secrets! Happy creating!