This One Element Leads to Reduced Stress, Improved Focus and a Stronger Sense of Self

A successful engineer at the highest level of his company has a particular routine every evening. He walks into the door kisses his wife and children, and immediately changes into jeans and a t-shirt.

He meanders into his workshop where he carefully cuts tiny square blocks into small pieces. The zing of the blade is akin to a meditation gong, summoning his mind and body into a calm space. He turns to the chair that is beginning to take shape and glues the tiny square blocks into the next row. He takes his time, setting each block into place as though they were puzzle pieces. Within minutes, the tension in his shoulders has eased, and he finds himself smiling for the first time all day.

The act of creativity

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his life to finding out what makes people truly happy. In his groundbreaking book, "Flow", he says, "The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile." It is in these "optimal experiences" a person feels "strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities." What Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow is simply the act of creativity. The outcome does not matter as much as the process.

The necessity of a creative outlet

In stress-laden lives filled with commutes, deadlines, endless inboxes and demand, creativity may seem like a luxury. In reality, having a creative outlet is a necessity for better mental and physical health. For example, the incredible popularity of adult coloring has taught us that people want to be creative but often do not know where to begin. If there is anything that this phenomenon can teach you it is that you don't need to invest large amounts of time in order to be creative.

Where to start

Begin by finding something you enjoy. While many people automatically associate creativity with the visual arts, it is not the only arena for such an expression. Any activity where you have the potential for discovering something new is considered creative. Cooking, gardening, hiking, writing, or even organizing a room could be considered creative endeavors. It all comes down to your interests and what is most likely to put you at ease.

Remember, creativity does not necessarily equate to spontaneity. Carve out time in your day for these pursuits. Not only will you experience improved focus throughout the rest of your day, you may find a new sense of self.