Purple stick figure meditating on a yoga mat with warm multicolored pigments in the background.

How Creative Skills Can Be Improved To Reduce Anxiety

Written by Michaela MacBlake Matthews

Which side of the brain is creative?

Stick figure standing in an archway between two pillars, with a lightbulb in place of its head, and a swirling ball of yarn in the background.

The answer may surprise you:

Both.

Creativity means coming up with new ideas, often by rearranging fragments of things we’ve already seen in a new way, or by filling in the blanks to solve a problem.According to an article from Caltech Letters, what we know about creative thinking so far is that the brain needs to switch between daydreaming (the Default Mode Network) and conscious attention (the Central Executive Network) in order to come up with creative ideas.

It makes sense, as the average person spends about 47% of their time daydreaming. The true creative element is simply being able to switch from the fantasy back into the real world often enough to bring the ideas to life! 

So… Can You Become More Creative?

A bright blue sky with an indigo stich figure climbing up a pyramid of yarn to reach the flag at the top.
Who's ready to scale Start With Love Mountain?

 Absolutely.

 Creativity can be improved and developed by any number of activities:

  • Daydream more often
  • Visualize while reading
  • Create art or music
  • Learn a new language
  • Take up improv

However, true creativity doesn’t need a strict form to get started. More likely, it may just rebel against a form, if you try to give it one. Creativity likes to wander, and when you’re first trying to nurture it, letting the ideas run free may be just the fuel you need to get started. Over time, the switch between ideas and execution (*ahem* finishing projects…) becomes more fluid and natural, as those neurological connections grow stronger.

How Creativity As A Skill Can Reduce Stress

Purple stick figure meditating on a yoga mat, in front or a macro background of red, orange, yellow, and green pigment powders.

The imagination isn’t just rainbows and butterflies. It also comes up with nagging ideas, like a million things you ‘should’ do, but really don’t have time for today or the worst possible scenarios that will likely never happen.Imagined outcomes and unrealistic, larger-than-life ideas about what tasks are and how long they’re going to take, or when they really need to be done, are all ways that the daydreaming mind can slip into a state of stress and anxiety over time. They are also clever mashups of things you’ve seen and heard, but sometimes they can get a little too extreme.

At worst, fear fantasies can block you from your conscious mind, and put that Central Executive Network on the back burner. The well-trained creative, however, knows how to negotiate between those two zones. Not only can we let our ideas play manager over our attention to create new, innovative things, but we can also let our conscious mind talk our anxieties down when they need a reality check.

The crafter's tree of life, with roots and branches expanding in a circle, and yarn in place of the leaves.

Over time, developing creative skill is like building a bridge between the metaphorical left and right brain. Either side can walk over to check up on the other, and each step builds the network toward becoming an empowered, grounded, and beautiful you.

Meet the Author

Close up of the author, Michaela Matthews wearing red lipstick and a poofy red scarf with white flower arrangement in background."Mac" is on the Lifestyle Team here at Darn Good Yarn, and loves taking a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach to creative therapy. She is certified in neuro-linguistic programming, and is also the surreal artist and author behind Surrealismac.