Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Creativity is the ability to think and come up with new and unique ideas, whether it’s solving a problem, making something artistic, or finding a different approach to a task. Fostering creativity has been shown to impact mental health functioning positively, providing a therapeutic outlet for emotional expression, promoting self-discovery and personal growth, and enhancing overall well-being.

What is Creativity?

Creativity is a special skill 1 that allows us to come up with new and valuable ideas, think in unique ways, and turn our imagination into something real. It’s about using what we already know and our own experiences to create fresh solutions, express ourselves through art, and gain new perspectives of life.

Besides, creativity has a strong connection with our mental well-being 2 . When we take part in creative activities, like painting, writing, or playing music, it gives us a way to express our feelings, release stress, and explore who we are.

It can help us deal with tough situations, process difficult emotions, and find comfort or a sense of purpose. It’s important to note that creativity is not limited to any gender, but research suggests 3 that men are generally perceived to be more creative than women.

Mental Health and Creativity

Some mental health benefits of creativity 4 include:

  1. Engaging in creative activities, such as solving puzzles, painting, or writing stimulates the brain, leading to improved cognitive function and enhanced mental abilities.
  2. Research indicates that regular participation in creative endeavors can effectively lower the risk of developing dementia 5 and age-related cognitive decline.
  3. Creative activities trigger the production of dopamine and endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” chemicals. This natural response uplifts mood and fosters happiness.
  4. Embracing creativity can help to reduce the impact of stress, acting as a valuable outlet for promoting relaxation and inner peace.
  5. Creativity can provide a means of self-discovery, self-expression, and emotional release, thus aiding in combating feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Read More About Stress Here

How Does The Creative Brain Work?

 While creativity is a complex process that involves multiple brain regions 6 , here are some key areas and their roles in creative output:

  1. Prefrontal cortex, located at the front of the brain, helps us generate ideas, evaluate their feasibility, and make judgments about their value.
  2. Association areas, connect different sensory and cognitive areas of the brain, combine different concepts or ideas that fosters creativity.
  3. Temporal lobes, particularly the right hemisphere, are associated with creative thinking and artistic expression.
  4. Hippocampus helps in the creative process by recalling relevant information, experiences, and associations that can be used in problem-solving or generating new ideas.
  5. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex enables us to switch between different strategies, overcome mental blocks, and inhibit habitual thinking, promoting innovation.

Mental Illness and Creativity

Some studies suggest a correlation between certain mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia 7 , and increased creativity in some individuals. It is hypothesized that the altered thought patterns, heightened emotional states, or unique delusional perspectives associated with mental illness may contribute to unconventional and innovative thinking.

Read More About Bipolar Disorder Here

However, it is crucial to recognize that mental illness can also have adverse effects on creativity. Depressive and anxiety symptoms 8 such as lack of motivation, cognitive difficulties, or emotional instability can hinder creative processes and output.

Read More About Anxiety Here

Famous Artists with Mental Illness

Numerous famous artists throughout history 9 have been known to have experienced mental illness. Vincent van Gogh 10 , renowned for his post-impressionist works, struggled with depression and is believed to have had bipolar disorder. Frida Kahlo 11 , known for her surrealist self-portraits, coped with physical and emotional pain resulting from a severe bus accident and lived with depression.

Edvard Munch 12 , the creator of the iconic painting “The Scream,” grappled with anxiety and panic attacks. These artists and others have left a lasting artistic legacy while navigating the complexities of mental health challenges.

Read More About ‌Panic Disorder Here

How Creativity Works as a Therapy for Mental Illness

Creativity works as a therapeutic approach 5 for mental illness, which include:

  1. Art therapy, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting provides a non-verbal outlet for self-expression, promotes emotional processing.
  2. Music therapy, playing an instrument, or engaging in music composition can reduce anxiety, improve mood, and enhance self-esteem.
  3. Writing and journaling for self-reflection, processing of emotions, and gaining a sense of clarity can serve as a tool for coping and reducing stress.
  4. Dance and movement therapy promotes self-expression, body awareness, and emotional release, which can reduce symptoms traumatic experiences.
  5. Engaging in drama or theater activities can build social connections which has been shown to enhance self-confidence, communication skills, and emotional resilience.
  6. Engaging in visual arts, like photography, encourages appreciation of surroundings, finding beauty in everyday life, and a sense of accomplishment.
  7. Participating in crafts, such as knitting, sewing, or woodworking can serve as a distraction from negative thoughts and improve overall mood. 

Read More About ‌Music Therapy Here


The mental health benefits of creativity include reduced stress, improved mood, increased self-awareness, enhanced self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, and greater emotional resilience.

Engaging in creative activities can provide individuals with a sense of empowerment, improved emotional well-being, and valuable coping mechanisms to navigate the challenges of mental health and illness.

At A Glance

  1. Creativity is a special skill that allows us to come up with new and valuable ideas, think in unique ways, and turn our imagination into something real.
  2. Engaging in creative activities, such as solving puzzles or writing stimulates the brain, leading to improved cognitive function and enhanced mental abilities.
  3. Parts of the brain such as Prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and temporal lobe are connected with creativity.
  4. There is a positive and negative correlation between mental illness and creativity.
  5. Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo are the examples of famous artists with mental illness who have left a lasting artistic legacy.
  6. Art therapy, music therapy etc. promote positive mental health and creativity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How can creativity be nurtured in children?

Creativity in children can be nurtured by providing opportunities for open-ended play, encouraging imagination, and valuing their unique ideas and desire for expressions.

2. Can creativity be influenced by external factors?

External factors such as the environment, culture, social support, and exposure to diverse stimuli can influence creativity.

3. Can creativity be learned?

Yes, engaging in creative activities, exploring new experiences, and embracing a mindset that values curiosity, experimentation, and risk-taking can enhance one’s creative thinking abilities.

👇 References:
  1.  Runco M. A. (2004). Creativity. Annual review of psychology55, 657–687. []
  2.  Fiori, M., Fischer, S., & Barabasch, A. (2022). Creativity is associated with higher well-being and more positive COVID-19 experience. Personality and individual differences194, 111646. []
  3.  BAER, J., & KAUFMAN, J. C. (2008). Gender Differences in Creativity. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 42(2), 75–105. []
  4.  Tan, C. Y., Chuah, C. Q., Lee, S. T., & Tan, C. S. (2021). Being Creative Makes You Happier: The Positive Effect of Creativity on Subjective Well-Being. International journal of environmental research and public health18(14), 7244. []
  5.  Galassi, F., Merizzi, A., D’Amen, B., & Santini, S. (2022). Creativity and art therapies to promote healthy aging: A scoping review. Frontiers in psychology13, 906191. [][]
  6.  Beaty R. E. (2020). The Creative Brain. Cerebrum : the Dana forum on brain science2020, cer-02-20. []
  7.  Johnson, S. L., Murray, G., Fredrickson, B., Youngstrom, E. A., Hinshaw, S., Bass, J. M., Deckersbach, T., Schooler, J., & Salloum, I. (2012). Creativity and bipolar disorder: touched by fire or burning with questions?. Clinical psychology review32(1), 1–12. []
  8.  Xu, Y., Shao, J., Zeng, W., Wu, X., Huang, D., Zeng, Y., & Wu, J. (2021). Depression and Creativity During COVID-19: Psychological Resilience as a Mediator and Deliberate Rumination as a Moderator. Frontiers in psychology12, 665961. []
  9.  Pavitra, K. S., Chandrashekar, C. R., & Choudhury, P. (2007). Creativity and mental health: A profile of writers and musicians. Indian journal of psychiatry49(1), 34–43. []
  10.  Wolf P. (2001). Creativity and chronic disease. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). The Western journal of medicine175(5), 348. []
  11.  Budrys V. (2006). Neurological deficits in the life and works of Frida Kahlo. European neurology55(1), 4–10. []
  12.  Friedlaender, G. E., & Friedlaender, L. K. (2018). Edvard Munch and The Scream: A Cry for Help. Clinical orthopaedics and related research476(2), 200–202. []