Benefits of Creative Expression

This article discusses the benefits of creative expression. While this website is focused on photography, there are a myriad of ways that we can exercise creative expression in our individual lives. The challenges that each of us have faced while the global pandemic has dragged on, have been considerable. They have weighed heaving on many. Considering the benefits of creative expression may help to motivate us to tap in to our creativity once again… and improve our everyday lives in the process.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.7 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 24.8 metres

I considered a few ways to approach this particular article, which happens to be the 1000th piece that I’ve written for this website. Discussing the benefits of creative expression seemed to be the most important and relevant topic of the ones I pondered.

My viewpoints about the benefits of creative expression should not be accepted at face value. I would encourage all of you to do a bit of research about these benefits.

What you find may help encourage you to pick up your camera gear again. Or, pursue some other form of creative expression that is personally rewarding. The benefits of creative expression are considerable, varied, and too important to ignore.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 90 mm, efov 243 mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO-160

Improves mood, reduces negative emotions and depression.

When we are actively engaged in the creative process our brains produce increased levels of dopamine. This is a naturally produced anti-depressant which has a positive impact on our physiology.

Dopamine is involved with many body functions including blood flow, digestion, and functions of various organs such as heart, kidney, and pancreas.

Lower levels of dopamine can make us feel lethargic, depressed and unmotivated. Higher levels of dopamine contribute to our feelings of being alert and focused, happy, and more motivated.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6 1/4000, ISO-800

Drugs, alcohol and nicotine can also activate the production of dopamine. The risk of course is that these substances can become addictive. There have been various news reports of increased levels of substance abuse during the pandemic.

If my body needs more dopamine I’d much rather get that stimulation from the creative process than risk chemical dependencies.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/7.1, 1/800, ISO-400, subject distance 2.9 metres, glowing edges filter

Boosts self-esteem.

Our feelings of self-worth are enhanced when we are involved with creative expression. The need to create is a trait that is embedded in the human experience. It has been at the core of all scientific discoveries and human inventions.

The more that we create, the deeper our feelings of self worth become. In many ways when we create we become closer to our essential selves.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-1600, microscopic mode

Increases self-confidence.

Each of us come with varying amounts of talents and abilities. During the pandemic many people have lost their employment or had their incomes significantly reduced. The related loss of self-confidence can be corrosive.

For many folks, they are what they do. So… when what they do stops or is reduced, their feelings of self-confidence may be rattled to their very core.

Re-engaging with creative expression may allow us to use other talents and abilities that may not be directly associated with our jobs or careers. Harnessing those talents and abilities again can make us feel more whole as a person, and increase our level of self-confidence.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 170 mm, efov 340 mm, f/11, -0.7 step, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 1.8 metres

Enhances cognitive function.

Creative expression helps to enhance our cognitive function. Its one of the reasons why creative activities like painting, sculpture, knitting and other pursuits are encouraged at senior centres.

Creating something gives us the opportunity to use problem solving skills. Challenging our brains creatively can energize us mentally, making us feel more alive and vibrant.

Increasing our mental focus transports us into a realm beyond negative news reports and the everyday fears that may overwhelm us.

For some people getting ‘lost’ in a creative project stops time, and produces a calming effect similar to meditation. The act of creating helps us live more fully in the present moment.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 41 mm, efov 110.7 mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO-3200, extension tube used

Strengthens immune system.

There is some evidence that pursuing creative expression may have a positive effect on the performance of the immune system. This relationship is not yet clearly understood, but some association seems to exist.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 46 mm, efov 124 mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-400

Builds feelings of freedom and self-control.

The lock-downs and other restrictions brought on by the pandemic can make us feel that we have lost control of our lives. We may feel that we are prisoners of our immediate surroundings.

French Polynesia, Kodak DX6490, 6 mm, efov 38 mm, f/5.6, 1/750, ISO-80

Creative expression is a transcendent experience that can transport us mentally outside of our current physical restraints. For example, rather then be depressed that travel is no longer possible, going back through travel images can help us relive past positive experiences.

While we may be living under some physical restraints, mentally our creative expression can take us wherever we want to go in our minds. This helps restore feelings of freedom and self-control.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/3000, ISO-2800

Creates feelings of joy and accomplishment.

Regardless of the form of our creative expression, when we complete a creative project it generates feelings of joy and accomplishment. Some of these feelings are a result of us challenging ourselves to grow, rather than just ‘treading water’ with our lives. The act of creating is its own reward.

Creative expression can help restore some degree of purpose in our lives. The emptiness that many of us have felt over the past number of months can be at least partially replenished with creative pursuits.

There is a feeling of fulfillment that comes with the creative process. Often we connect with something larger than ourselves… ideas… concepts… when we create.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 41 mm, efov 110.7 mm, f/8, 1/30, ISO-800

No one is suggesting that life has been easy during the pandemic. Pursuing creative expression can help restore some degree of normalcy in our lives, and allow us to keep growing under challenging conditions.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 32mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-3200

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4 thoughts on “Benefits of Creative Expression”

  1. Hello Tom,

    It’s been a while since I’ve last visited. This post resonates with me as well as others in the “creativity” industry (advertising, et al), though we all have varying degrees of creativity inside, IMHO.

    The extended quarantines and lockdowns mean we have to find other outlets for our creativity. We can either let the situation get the best of us or we find other avenues to express ourselves. In my case, I am reading a whole lot more (up to two ebooks a week), journaling more, visiting the local park, and spotting birds both usual and unusual for the location. I’ve been cooking a lot more, caring for my plants (also talking to them more :D), engaging in crafting with my hands more.

    As far as photography is concerned, I’ve begun to keep tabs on everyday things I used to take for granted — the time the sparrows arrive in the morning to feed, how many they usually are, what sounds they make, which plants they spare in their boisterous hunt for more food in my garden ledge. Sometimes, we just have to reframe our perspectives instead of fretting and feeling helpless (and hopeless).

    PS: Congrats on the 1000th milestone. That’s longevity at a time when most things are ephemeral.

    Keep safe!
    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Hi Oggie,

      It is always great to have you visit and share your perspectives! Being more aware of things around us and experiencing them more deeply is an important path to follow that enriches our lives. Each day is a gift that we can celebrate should we choose to do so. During the past number of weeks while using my recumbent bike/rower, I’ve found myself being deeply aware of how the muscles in my body are coordinating with each other to create movement. With this increased awareness comes a deeper appreciation of the present moment. Reframing our perspectives, as your comment points out, helps us transcend negative emotions.

      Keep safe and healthy!

      Tom

  2. Congratulations on your 1,000th posting Tom. That is quite an accomplishment and one you can be rightly proud of. I have only been following you since I first thought about moving to Olympus in late 2019 and came across your articles at that time. How long have you been writing the articles?

    Thanks for your excellent articles and I hope you continue a number of thousands more.

    1. Hi Joel,

      I first started writing photography-related articles at Photography Life with my first posting published in November 2013. I joined the writing team there in February 2014. I started this website in January 2015. It was originally called tomstirrphotography.com. We changed the name to smallsensorphotography.com in July 2019.

      Tom

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