How many sayings are out there that encourage us to make the best of our situation when we’re at our lowest points? Carpe Diem! When life gives you lemons… Hang in there! Or perhaps a lesser-known quote by the late, great artist Amy Winehouse: “Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen.” Since life is full of adversity, our species proves resilient with endless creative potential to persevere through the hard, the bad, the boring, the painful, and the ugly moments. For many, loneliness is one of the most plaguing waves of the human experience. And when we’re at our lowest, creativity and loneliness seem like far away strangers.
However, this article encourages us to hang in there – not to give up, and instead, to believe them as friends. We will see through scientific research and real human stories that creativity and loneliness are in fact, linked and suprisingly, can be embraced together. Since according to science and a plethora of personal testimony, ranging from artists, mental health professionals, and spiritual leaders, alike, perhaps loneliness can actually serve as a creative blessing in disguise.
Creativity neuroscience is an ongoing area of study, but empirical data has yet to explain many questions about how creativity really works. As spoken to above, the brain proves more complex and interconnected than we’d previously believed it to be. A recent Harvard study dispelled the overly simplistic idea that there’s a logical left vs. creative/emotive right brain divide. Instead, This research supports the idea that increased functional connectivity between brain regions support creativity and general life-engagement. Namely the inferior prefrontal cortex, where imagination and sensory imagery reside, a relatively relaxed amygdala, the fight-flight-freeze hub, and the DMN. So in the simplist of terms, more connectivity leads to increased creative energy and potential. With that, what we do know through western science, at least, is that creativity both requires and improves energy output in the brain.
While it’s wonderful to consider the cognitive aspects of creativity, really when it comes down to it, the artist within us needs to live and breathe creativity. So let’s talk experientially. How does one find or embark upon creativity?
According to this article, there’s four fantasticly helpful ways for people to boost creative inspiration. They are:
Engaging with mother nature
When we get outside of our homes and into nature, it doesn’t take too long to recognize that we, infact, are part of and therefore, connected to nature. We too transition through the seasons of our lives. Our moods and energy levels fluctuate like the winds and the weather. Our thoughts are like clouds in the sky floating by, sometimes accumulating into a storm, or parting to reveal tranquility, peace, and clarity. The human brain can see more shades of green than any other colour accessible to us. The sound of water can relax and ignite us. The sun warms our skin and provides us light to see the beauty of nature all around us.
So look to the trees, flowers in season, grasses and moss. Notice how leaves dance in the breeze, how complex and diverse a forest, a mountain, the ocean operates and yet, has place and purpose. Can you move your body like the elements? Dance like the leaves, rock like the waves, shake like fire, and sing like the wind? Spend minutes or hours in nature and find inspiration from it’s glory. Engaging with mother nature soothes us, reduces our anxiety, lowers our heart rates, helps us get out of our own heads and narrow needs, and allows our brains to make connections more easily.
Meditating implies slowing down our minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits, allowing more noticing and observation. The value of “doing less and being more” is not only promoted in meditation discourse, but also a universally felt necessity and scientifically proven need for short-term enjoyment and life longevity. The research is in – quite on the contrary to unfamiliar belief, meditating actually uses all of our brain. If creativity improves with more brain region activity, it in fact is true that meditating invites us to access more of our subconscious, memory, and imaginary regions, and allows us the relaxed space to notice and draw inspiration from it.
Painter and art director at Kitchener Museum of Fine Arts, Daniella Carrey shares that for her, painting has become a blend of meditation and movement. She uses meditation techniques to ‘get in the zone’, including listening to calm music or guided meditations before putting brush to canvas. From the recent popular app Headspace, there’s a 20 minute meditation receiving great feedback for supporting people into more creative headspaces. Try it out here!
Exercising releases endorphins – chemicals our body produces to relieve stress and pain. And when we are less stressed, our brains venture into more fruitful territory. Getting active can literally be as simple as moving in any non-functional way, say through playful dance or skipping from couch to kitchen. Or, it can be as simple as taking a walk outside, getting the energy within you moving and inviting more oxygen and nuance into your mind and body. Many artists, from film makers to musicians and painters find creative inspiration from getting active. Director Stephen Nolan shares that his best films, from concept to imagining scenes and soundtracks came to him in spin classes. Steve Jobs advocated for ‘walking meetings’ that led many of his colleagues to remark much higher work satisfaction and creative brainstorming.
The benefits are never ending with getting active. Whether it’s dancing in your living room, running new routes in your neighbourhood, or trying out a new zumba class. It’s worth it! And with all that moving and fresh energy within you, perhaps you will notice new creative ideas surface, or motivation rise to creative write, paint, dance, build, or whichever art strikes you!
Connect with different kinds of people
Connecting with different kinds of people necessarily brings us into newness. Nuance invites the brain to be more alert, making new brain connections, meaning-making, and opportunity. As much as our closest friends and relationships bring such richness to our lives, new experiences and connections help us keep open and learning. Consider how one brain usually only sees part of reality, and how collaboration and exchange support problem solving and new perspectives. Newness boosts creativity… why not collaborate on a painting, or song writing? New connections are inspiring and get us out of our own beautiful, albeit partial heads.
And so, if these tools support creativity, can you also see how beneficial these can be in supporting us through and to reduce loneliness? That’s the funny thing about living well and full… Many tools and techniques for boosting one part of our lives improves another (or many altogether). As you read further on loneliness, examine how some of these techniques above may support the two in tandem.
The experience of loneliness implies a felt sense of disconnection. Often, this disconnection shows up in patterns of social isolation, but interestingly, it also can make sense in our brain activity. In fact, more therapeutic and scientific data purport that loneliness is rather a state of mind, rather than inter-relationtional. While it is important for adults to learn to embrace and seek out alone time, prolonged loneliness tends to isolate, fester, and cripple us. There’s something about loneliness, though, that is particularly intriguing to acknowledge. We all feel it… and at any point in time, how many of us are experiencing some degree of loneliness at a given time? What if loneliness as a univerally unavoidable experience could actually unite us? And what way better than to uncover and explore this potential with creativity!
Let’s explore practical ways to embrace the two.
Embracing the Two
Since we’ve gathered a little bit of science and some testimonial encouragements, let’s brainstorm ways we can help ourselves out of a mental, emotional, creative funk by embracing the two. Two important ingredients for improving our quality of life are: play and self-expression. Both are also antedotes for loneliness and depression. Interesting? I think so! And also, opportunitistic and full of hope.
Creative expression can take many, many forms. You can write. You can draw. Paint. Dance. Write music. Sing. Sculpt. Carve. Invent. Even yoga and exercise can be considered creative. Play play play! Allow your mind to wander and look at you, already exercising those creative muscles! So, if you find yourself home alone, or even feeling an inner sense of loneliness despite having company around you, try something new. Do you have a pen and paper, some markers? Try creative drawing. Look for writing prompts, or simply free write. Any fine art supplies in the house? Try it out. Quiet the inner judge – this is for you. How about some music… play some aloud in the house and dance freely, or try choreography. Pick up that dusty guitar, or if you’re really open, go rent and borrow one.
Try this out a couple minutes a day and see how alone time can begin to seem more meaningful and full of potential. And then some day soon, you’ll find yourself feeling a sense of pride and reconnection with yourself. We’re our own best company, you know. And then, one day… you may just find yourself eager and able to share and show your work.
Share Your Work
Fantastic! So you’ve gone and chosen to embrace your solo-time, opening up those creative channels and actually have some art to show for it! Alright, you sole-creative beacon, are you ready for some next-level advice? SHARE YOUR WORK! In effect, go get two birds stoned, at once! Instead of hiding yourself and perpetuating that thread of loneliness, you gotta’ make changes to see changes. (Show Your Work)
Spill the beans – you’re really a closeted creative genius! Following the opening of your creative doors, get yourself out there – be it virtually over social or entertainment media, an artists hub (like Bohemian’s Minds!), in local cafes or galleries, local creative events, art fairs, open mics. There’s a community of connection out there waiting (and believe me, there is). Fortune favours the bold.
After reading this article, I hope the bridge between creativity and loneliness feels far shorter and more opportunitistic than dreary.
- Beaty RE, Benedek M, Wilkins RW, Jauk E, Fink A, Silvia PJ, Hodges DA, Koschutnig K, Neubauer AC. Creativity and the default network: A functional connectivity analysis of the creative brain at rest. Neuropsychologia. 2014 Nov;64:92-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.09.019. Epub 2014 Sep 20. PMID: 25245940; PMCID: PMC4410786.
- Bowker J, Stotsky M, Etkin R. How BIS/BAS and Psycho-behavioral Variables Distinguish Between Social Withdrawal Subtypes During Emerging Adulthood. Personality and Individual Differences. 2017; 119(283-288). doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.07.043.
- Braff, Danielle. “According to Science, Loneliness and Creativity Are Linked.” Byrdie, October 21, 2021. https://www.byrdie.com/how-to-be-creative-5095410#:~:text=One%20study%20found%20those%20who,sense%20of%20wisdom%20and%20creativity.
- Spreng RN, Dimas E, Mwilambwe-Tshilobo L, et al. The Default Network of the Human Brain Is Associated With Perceived Social Isolation. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):6393. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w.
About the author:
I am passionate about making the best of life through cherishing relationships, exploring worldly experiences, and cultivating a creative lifestyle of art, music, dance, and fitness. I am a self-taught painter, inspired by the sublimity of nature, consciousness, love and universal transcendence that binds all of humanity and nature, together.