Are creativity and happiness linked?
Answered by Ted Leonsis and Bambi Turner
  • Ted Leonsis

    Ted Leonsis

  • Bambi Turner

    Bambi Turner

  1. Ted Leonsis Founder, Chairman, Majority Owner, CEO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment


    I believe that everyone's creative. Everyone has that spark inside them. Happier people tend to be more productive. Happier people are dwelling on higher callings and can get those flashes of insights or brilliance or have output that is considered creative. Self-expression is one of the main things of happiness. It's probably why I wrote my books. It's why I make movies. It's why I blog every day. It's probably a reason that there's 250 million active bloggers around the world. It's your personal way of saying, "Listen to what I have to say."

    And from a business standpoint, a media standpoint, what's the number-one best-rated show on network television? "American Idol." What's "American Idol" all about? It's people self-expressing. I can be a star. What's the number-two best-rated show? "So You Think You Can Dance." And so that's what I meant by capturing this happiness quotient, not only personally, but from a business standpoint as well.

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  2. From Lord Byron to Vincent Van Gogh, society has long believed that creativity is the product of a tortured soul. Recent studies have shown that in fact, the opposite is true, and that everyday creativity is more closely linked with happiness than depression. In 2006, researchers at the University of Toronto found that sadness creates a kind of tunnel vision that closes people off from the world, but happiness makes people more open to information of all kinds. Not only are happy people more creative, but this creativity allows them to come up with new ways to solve problems or simply achieve their goals [source: Minkel]. This ability can lead to greater success or happiness, which spurs further creativity, feeding a self-perpetuating cycle in which these two qualities reinforce one another.

    This research supports previous data that suggests a two-way link between happiness and creativity. A number of studies conducted throughout the 1990s found evidence that happy people receive better ratings on employee evaluations, which is partially attributed to creativity and problem-solving skills. These studies found that the best predictor of job performance was not job satisfaction, but simply an employee's overall sense of happiness and well-being. A happy employee has better attendance than someone who's not as happy, and also appears to be more able to come up with innovative ideas and solutions [source: Lyubomirsky et al].

    These studies about happiness and creativity focus on everyday creativity, or an ability to think outside of the box, and not necessarily on artistic creativity. Although little evidence exists to link artistic creativity and happiness, the myth of the depressed artist has some scientific basis. Researchers have found a slight connection between mental illness and high levels of artistic creativity. A happy person is better equipped to apply creativity to everyday problems, but a person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder might instead be more capable of creating great art [source: Eby]. Scientists are unsure of the exact cause, but some believe that manic periods give the artist an amplified version of the creativity experienced by happy, healthy people. Illnesses such as schizophrenia allow people to make connections or experience emotions that would not occur to people without these diseases.

    Despite this link between mental illness and creativity, there is still no support for the idea that depression and unhappiness enhance creative ability. In fact, dark periods may serve as inspiration for later work, but they typically leave people who experience them incapable of producing anything, much less works of art.

    landscape painter
    Landscape painting is a popular craft that allows artists to express their points of view about the scenery surrounding them. (ŠiStockphoto.com/webphotographeer)

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