We can only control so much of what happens to us, as my therapist likes to remind me. There is no point in stressing over things out of our control and obsessing over potential scenarios. Trust me, I spent many hours working on this with my therapist and learning how to not let my anxiety be driven by the “what ifs” in the world. We never know which day is going to be our last, as morbid as that sounds.
I listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Science Rules! with Bill Nye, and he had a conversation with Dr. Nir Barzilai, the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Human Aging Research and of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging. That’s a mouthful. I found this episode so fascinating because of his study on “centarians” and genetics. You should listen to the episode, but the gist of it was that genetics control exactly how long we will live. Eating a salad won’t make you live longer, because that’s outside of our control, but healthy living will help you live better. Like I said, I highly recommend listening to the episode and hearing him explain it.
Another secret to living a happy, fulfilled life is living a life infused with creativity. Creativity isn’t going to be the magic cure all for diseases or life expectancy, but it will help you live a better quality of life, no matter how long or short.
One study that looked into the health status and life expectancy of creative people found that creativity may indeed be associated with a delay in the decline of cognitive and physical health as we age. According to the researchers, it is possible that creative people find better ways of coping with their diminishing capabilities than their less resourceful counterparts.
Too many times, we become static in our lives. We do the same thing over and over. If you really want to increase the quality of life, you have to step out there and do something different. Making an effort to become more creative is one that can pay off in more ways than one. The deep connection between creativity and meaning was noted long ago by the great creativity researcher Frank X. Barron. Through his pioneering research on some of the most creative people of his generation, Barron came to realize that creative people have the remarkable capacity to become intimate with themselves. According to psychologist Ruth Richards, they “dare to look within, even at one’s irrational and less conscious material, including one’s ‘shadow’ materials.” Richards refers to this capacity as “courageous openness.”
When we live more creatively, it allows us to become more aware of present experience and our own inner thoughts, feelings, actions, intentions, memories and imaginings. This helps us sustain a lifestyle of internal balance and harmony, creatively coping with adversity, awareness of our interconnection and unity with others, continuing personal development and bravely welcoming the risks of exploring the unknown and embracing the mysteries of life. As Richards puts it, “A creative style of living, coping with difficulties and weaving possibilities, can not only produce useful accomplishments for self and world but can offer the creator new resilience, perspective, aliveness in the moment, joy and purpose in life.”
Many times people find themselves restricted by their own inhibitions. Creativity gives us an ongoing opportunity to have something to look forward to which in turn helps us find more purpose in life. Motivation can lead to a greater desire to live our lives to the highest quality we’re capable of.
Creativity offers rich quality-of-life rewards to those who are courageous enough to follow its calling. Besides, no one reaches the end of their life and thinks, “I wish I’d spent less time being creative and less time expressing myself through things that bring me joy.”