Research suggests creative people are happier than everyone else. Why are so few people talking about the impact of creativity on success and happiness?

Disregard the mental image of the starving, depressed artist toiling away in a studio. Anyone can be creative. That’s right—you and I can be creative when we open our minds to new situations and exercise the parts of our brains responsible for creativity.

What does the research say?

Forget what you were told about right brain versus left brain. Cognitive neuroscientists have found that the creative process is more complicated than previously thought. Both conscious and unconscious processing takes place. Creativity does not involve a single region or side of the brain.

Consider the following studies on creativity and well-being:

  • Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro randomly sampled the feelings and actions of 79 students over one week using cell phone surveys. People reported doing something creative 20% of the time, and those who generally reported feeling happy and active were more likely to be doing something creative at the time. Those who scored higher in openness to experience were much more likely to spend time on creative activities than others.

  • Adobe conducted a 2016 survey of 5,000 adults in five countries comparing creativity with personal and professional success. People who self-identified as creative were more likely to identify themselves as innovative, confident, and problem solvers, and reported being happier (by 15 percentage points).

    In the same study, U.S. creators earned 17% more than non-creators.

  • A study divided groups of people into one group that made art and one that evaluated art at a museum. Those who made art scored higher in psychological resilience. Functional magnetic resonance imaging showed that the changes were correlated with differences in connections between different brain regions in the artwork group.

The brain actually changed and people became more resilient to stress when being creative and making art.

How often do you engage in creativity? Could this be a missing ingredient in your life?

This is an excerpt from my book, Creating Space to Thrive: Get Unstuck, Reboot Your Creativity and Change Your Life. I’m humbled and grateful for the enthusiastic response from my readers about the book. Learn about the book by clicking here.

can creativity make us happier



Silvia, Paul J.; Beaty, Roger E.; Nusbaum, Emily C.; Eddington, Kari M.; Levin-Aspenson, Holly; Kwapil, Thomas R., “Everyday creativity in daily life: An experience-sampling study of “little c” creativity,” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, May 2014.

Linda Naiman, “Want Happier, More Productive Employees? Invest More in Creativity and Design,”, November 21, 2016.

Bolwerk, Anne; Mack-Andrick, Jessica; Lang, Frieder R.; Dörfler, Arnd; Maihöfner, Christian, “How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity,” PLOS One, July 2014.