How to Be Creative & Happy: Seeking Pleasure & Purpose

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I believe you have heard many stories that artists created their greatest works when they were deeply upset or suffering from poor mental health.


T.S. Eliot described his "considerable mental agony" and how he felt "on the verge of insanity" in a letter. Likewise, Vincent Van Gogh wrote about "horrible fits of anxiety," "feelings of emptiness and fatigue," and finally took his own life.



People can't help but ask, can creativity and happiness exist at the same time?


Ambivalent study results


Many previous studies indicate that a positive emotion can enhance creativity. But others suggest that a negative emotion can spark creativity.


For example, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied extensive creative individuals across many disciplines, and found that they all loved what they did and enjoyed "designing or discovering something new."



On the other hand, a large study in Sweden found that authors were more likely to develop mental disorders compared to people doing non-creative jobs. According to this study, "anxiety can focus the mind" and negative emotions can spark creativity.


One of the reasons for the different results may be due to time scale.


What affects creativity



In the short term, you can force yourself to create and meet urgent deadlines if you are stressed or if there are external rewards (such as money). But in the long term, external rewards or pressure cannot sustain your creativity easily. Instead, pressures at work such as the fear of judgment and failure can cause unhappiness and lack of creativity.


If you want to sustain your creativity and happiness over longer periods, you should try to seek both pleasure and purpose.


To seek pleasure and purpose



The psychologist Paul Dolan defines happiness as the "experiences of pleasure and purpose over time." He describes purpose as relating to "fulfilment, meaning and worthwhileness" and believes we are at our happiest with a "balance between pleasure and purpose."


So, if you want to be creative in the long term, you should first ask yourself, if your work is meaningful and fulfilling, and if it can support your happiness.



When your work is truly interesting and enjoyable for you, and you have a sense of purpose to drive you to do better, then you may be able to gain both creativity and happiness.


For those creative people who suffer from poor mental health, however, it is a more complicated picture. Maybe the process of producing creative work can at least please them for a while.


7 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
Many take drugs for inspiration. remember Miley's we cant stop. sounds like high but okay. bradley's limitless actually high then the whole life like game boss. they are seeking pleasure n purpose?
HUH ?????............AHHHH YEAH....WHAT SHE SAID    ;-)
Many take drugs for inspiration. remember Miley's we cant stop. sounds like high but okay. bradley's limitless actually high then the whole life like game boss. they are seeking pleasure n purpose? and i no right you do not do that
Inspiration should be decorations of life, rather than luxuries you chase after.
Love this! Oft we taught at an early age the "Reward System." Eventually this has a negative impact on many, especially those with an addictive personality. Their drug of choice becomes their "reward" for a bad day, a good day, a crisis, a celebration, etc... If we teach our young to enjoy the process instead of the end result or "reward" then I believe we would be much happier as a whole and more satisfied with our lives as they are because let's face it, many of us end up mediocre and not Le Bron or Kim Kardashian.
Absolutely well said I agree
My ideas come when I laugh a lot. Try bathing, it works.
Yeah only interest drives you forward. Discipline and self-control are nothing.
Id rather agree . like Trump's hobby is money so his ideas as the President all come from money
I am pretty sure Trump's interest in the Presidency also stems from him wanting his face on paper currency! What better way than to memorialize yourself? The man loves money no doubt about it!
He has been and is a very successful business man.  (Mr. President Trump.)
Ahh has awesome     Didn’t think of that but if so COOL he is what we need for a president it’s like we get a taste of what should b and as always not all who were benefiting (from corruption, bad ppl creating bad things so they can say they are the ones doing good n trying to fix‍♀️) are not anymore so they intentionally let him become president so they could take it from him and undo what he’s done. We were getting back on track. So we need to rely on gov in future for things (some of us)
I never forget my creation in bad emotions.
I’ve had more than my share and still do of mental health issues some of which I deal with daily and some pop their ugly heads up when I least expect them to and turn my world upside down and I’ve Used and been through a number of different addictions to try to use them to deal with my mental health issues some worked for a while but later backfired on me, some not at all and almost totally destroyed me completely and others I made the choice to abandon and avoid before they backfired or destroyed me because I was able to recognize the negative pattern of that particular addiction and see where it was taking me and I was able to get off the merry-go-round just in the nick of time.

Anyway, creativity and “art” is in the eye of the beholder and not everyone agrees on what is or is not “creative”. Many many jobs are creative to certain people such as math, science, geology as just a few examples.

During one decade or two of my life, math which I used in bookkeeping for myself and for others as a “job”, was really a major creative expression for me an it excited and pleased me. But that changed.  I don’t know why or how or what but it doesn’t do it for me now but other things do.

In the past I’ve had many different creative expressions and I enjoy some of them still and others don’t hold any appeal to me now and sometimes the drive to use that particular medium or Avenue of creative expression ebbs and flows much as the ocean tides do or the moon cycles through its Phases.

But the most important thing is that expression of creativity is what’s the most important whether it’s when I’m in a negative space or in a positive one.  Because I continually cycle and too much of the mental health meds turns me into a zombie where I feel nothing, am numb, and have no creativity or even an urge to be creative and the opposite is true as well.

It’s finding the Balance that’s the best outcome.  However I really don’t know if anyone has a truly completely perfectly balanced life. But I do know that our desire and our ability and the availability of the way or manner to express ourselves in whatever “creative” expression that appeals to each of us individually is what is important and even more important is that we do it, that we aren’t blocked by someone or something or we will begin to become either robotic and cut off from our emotions or if you’re like me, it makes me a little stir crazy. I get overly emotional, sometimes uncontrollably emotional which goes up and down like a yo-yo. And then things can be very dark and depressing or highly energetic and bouncing all over the place and both extremes can be destructive.  But when I am able to go into that creative space mentally and physically it helps to ground me and gives me that outlet to channel the emotions and the energies and I’ve been able to stay more connected with myself and reality and people around me.

I’m one of those creative people who has “poor mental heath” which is really just mental health issues that either are or are not being dealt with so please don’t label as “poor” mental health. I have ups and downs that are just more extreme than others. Thank goodness we’re not all exactly the same! How boring that would be.