Monmouth County's Ask The Doctor September/October 2019

ADVICE FOR THE AGING COMMUNITY The Health Benefits of Being Creative Linda Mundie-Vice President of Caring Connection of New Jersey W hen we think of wellness and the habits that are vital to our well-being, we immediately think of diet, exercise and sleep as the standards of health. An overlooked aspect of wellness is creativity. Researchers are starting to investigate some of the fun- damental aspects of life that usually get neglected, including our basic need for creativity. Developing a creative outlet is an essential aspect of our emotional and psychological well-being. People who consider themselves creative can attest to how their work makes them feel happy. Recently science has gotten involved in helping evaluate some of the more measurable ben- efits of being creative. There is evidence as to how creativity affects the brain. Musicians have been studied for the heightened connectivity between their left and right brain hemispheres. This is believed to be one of the reasons why Ein- stein was a genius—his mastery of the violin allowed him to effectively use both sides of his brain simultaneously. Working on something cre- ative, whether it’s writing a short story or growing a garden helps apply problem-solving and critical thinking skills as well. The Mayo Clinic looked at how middle-aged and older adults who had a creative practice of any kind, such as crafting, sewing, woodworking or painting, had a reduced risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The research showed that being creative helps adults build up a reserve supply of cog- nitive function, which delays future cognitive decline. Studies have looked at how music helps to restore immune system health and decreases the body’s response to inflammation, which is a root cause of many illnesses. For people with existing chronic illnesses, having a creative outlet can also help in the healing process by reducing stress hormone and inflammation levels. This is particularly true of the benefits of creative writing, which allows patients to have an outlet to cope with the trauma of living with a chronic illness. Live creatively! People think that you are either born creative, or you are not. But the truth is everyone is creative, it’s just a matter of taking chances and trying new things to discover the creative medium that fits you. Try drawing or painting, jewelry making, photography. Other things you can try are writing, singing, playing a musical instrument, joining a community theater. Write poetry or a blog. Many everyday activities can be creative, such as woodworking and gardening or knit- ting, crocheting and sewing. The physiological effects of creativity are also becoming clearer. The calming nature of creative expression helps keep blood pressure low, which is essential to preventing heart disease. Given the health benefits of art and creativity, more people may start to view their artistic practice as important as going to the gym or taking their vitamins. It’s fun and good for your health. Don’t be afraid to try

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something new. You don’t need to be an expert, or even very good at what you do. You are doing this for you, not for fame or recognition. Unleash your inner creativity! You will be healthier for it.





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