What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent on Happiness


emotions help creativity

Good news: Many emotions can help creativity if we use and manage them well.
Creativity is full of emotion, from the anxiety of the blank computer screen and the frustration of facing inevitable obstacles to the elation of insight and pride of achievement.

Creativity scholars have learned a great deal by examining the role of emotions in creativity for at least 35 years. The biggest and most reliable lesson from this research is that creative idea generation is most successful when people are in happy, energized states.

So, it would seem that in order to be creative, one should be happy. Indeed, readers may have seen this research translated into advice to those aiming to be more creative.

A Tired Brain Could Actually Be More Creative.
What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent On Happiness

Why is it, then, that when we think of creative people, happy and energized aren’t necessarily the first words that come to mind? Indeed, even the authors of the major meta-analysis that reviewed dozens of studies and clearly established the relationship between happy moods and generating creative ideas concluded, “to make a difference in creative performance, manipulating mood states is not very effective and is unlikely to produce clear and visible changes in creativity.”

Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent On The Happiness

Why this discrepancy between solid scientific research results and everyday observations?
A look into the nature of this research might help.

Common research studies asked which emotion(s) are beneficial for creativity, and which are detrimental to creativity. Scientists have long prized the ability to control what they study because it enables them to make conclusions about causal relationships.

The research studies looked something like this. Scientists invite people to their labs, likely undergraduate students enrolled in psychology classes. When they first come to the lab, they are put in a specific mood by listening to music or recalling personal memories. Then, they are given a creative task. Typically, they are asked to come up with ideas for different prompts, such as possible uses of a brick, things that are round, or consequences of people becoming invisible at will. They are usually given three to four minutes to complete this task.

This procedure shows time and again that happy, energized moods are beneficial for creativity. Yet, these studies are limiting and rather removed from the real world of creative individuals.

Undergraduate students are not representative of creative individuals. They are not selected to have the personal or social attributes of creative individuals.

Furthermore, how similar are everyday emotions to those evoked by music chosen by experimenters? Music is able to move deeply, but that is music that is personally meaningful to people. When an emotional state is induced by asking someone to recall different life events, the quality and intensity of their emotions will not be the same as during the actual experience.

Read Music Therapy: How Binaural Beats Music Can Help Reduce Depression

Sarcasm promotes creativity.
What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent On Happiness

The validity of the creativity tasks is also worth examining. Are creativity tasks in the lab representative of creative work in everyday life? Real-life creativity rarely (if ever) takes only three to four minutes. Also, laboratory tasks were designed so as not to give an advantage to people with special interests or skills. However, creative individuals care deeply about their work; their passion is part of them as creators.

Finally, and most problematically, these studies make conclusions about creativity, yet only examine one component: idea generation. Simply put, creativity is more than coming up with ideas. Van Gogh did not just have an idea to paint sunflowers; he actually painted them. Hemingway did not just have an idea for a story about an old fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin; he wrote it.

Also, watch – This is Exactly How Society Kills Our Creativity- In A Breathtaking short film.

Creativity Is More Than Coming Up With Ideas

If one were to start with multiple ideas after the idea generation process like that in laboratory studies, it would be necessary for them to consider which ones are the best to pursue. This requires critical thinking—a skill that is more successfully applied in more subdued and less positive moods.

Instead of asking what emotional states enhance or hinder creativity, we should ask different questions.
Are there patterns of emotions experienced by more or less creative individuals?
How do people use and transform different emotional experiences in the service of creativity?

Read: Are Mood Disorders the Price We Pay for High Intelligence and Creativity?

The process of developing, evaluating, and executing an idea in a final product has ups and downs and many associated emotions. We must acknowledge that we have complex emotional lives and that we have agency over our emotions.

In order to be open to creativity, one must spend time in solitude.
What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent On Happiness

Most importantly, the fact that people don’t need to be happy to think creatively can be empowering. We can draw creative ideas from nostalgia, sympathy, and frustration. We are not powerless at the mercy of our emotions, but we can influence their course, regulate them through thinking and behavioral strategies, and use them to inspire or fuel thinking.

Are you ready to be creative?


1. Baas, M., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2008). A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus? Psychological Bulletin, 134, 779–806. doi:10.1037/a0012815
2. Ivcevic, Z., & Hoffmann, J. D. (2017). Emotions and creativity: From states to traits and emotion abilities. In G. Feist, R. Reiter-Palmon, & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.). Cambridge Handbook of Creativity and Personality Research (pp. 187-213). New York: Cambridge University Press.
3. van Tilburg, W. A., Sedikides, C., & Wildschut, T. (2015). The mnemonic muse: Nostalgia fosters creativity through openness to experience. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 59, 1-7. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.02.00
4. Yang, H., & Yang, S. (2016). Sympathy fuels creativity: The beneficial effects of sympathy on originality. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 21, 132-143. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2016.06.002

Written by: Zorana Ivcevic Pringle
Originally appeared on: Zoranaivcevicpringle.com
Republished with permission.
emotions help creativity pin
What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent On Happiness

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

The Role Of Psychedelics In Spiritual Awakening: 5 Key Insights

The Role Of Psychedelics In Spiritual Awakening: Facts

In recent years, there has been an increasing fascination with the role of psychedelics in spiritual awakening and personal transformation. Such substances were mainly associated within counterculture movements of 1960s, but they are now being revisited due to their potential to unlock deeper aspects of human consciousness.

This article examines psychedelics’ role in spiritual awakening, the benefits and risks that may arise from using them, and what they teach about human experience.

A Brief History of Psychedelics and Spirituality

Up Next

Top 7 Motivational Movies For Students

Motivational Movies for Students To Watch

Cinema uniquely inspires us, especially when achieving success. Here are seven motivational movies for students that can ignite passion and drive them to excel their studies.

Encouraging movies for students can play a powerful role in influencing their studying habits. They can provide much-needed breaks from academic routines, and offer relaxation, as well as mental stimulation.

Moreover, they spark interest in subjects children might find daunting, making learning more enjoyable and relatable with role models or stories about real-life heroes!

Are you ready to motivate yourself with iconic characters and help to overcome challenges? Below are 7 movies to motivate you to study, the themes can have a significant impact, helping you to stay engaged and focused!

Up Next

Being ‘Boysober’: What This New Celibacy Trend Means

What Is Boysober? Benefits Of This New Trend

In a world where dating and relationships are often considered essential pursuits, the concept of ‘boysober’ emerges as a deliberate departure from the norm. 

What Is Boysober Meaning?

The term was invented by Brooklyn comedian Hope Woodard. Boysober meaning is quite easy: abstaining from romance, irrespective of the person’s gender, as a way of having some rest from dating.

It is usually a year-long commitment to abstain from all aspects of dating, including intimacy, and challenges societal expectations and promotes a unique form of self-care.

Up Next

5 Ways For Manifesting With The Moon Phases: Align Your Goals!

Charming Ways to Manifesting with the Moon Phases

The moon, our nearest neighbor, profoundly influences not only the nature of the Earth but also the ebb and flow of our daily lives. Therefore, manifesting with the moon phases is also very common among spiritual believers.

With its never-ending glow and beauty, the moon casts a charm on our life cycle and imagination. It has also been clinically proven that the moon phases have multiple medical impacts. In astrology, the moon is considered a powerful factor in our personality and mood.

Given its significant influence, the moon phases are considered one of the most impactful times for setting intentions and manifesting your desires. Curious about harnessing this lunar power? Let’s explore together about manifesting with the moon phases.

Up Next

What Is Your Mythical Creature Personality? Let’s Find Out With This MBTI Quiz

Mythical Creature Personality Test: Charming Personalities

Do you find stories about mythological creatures fascinating? Does history and adventure make you feel alive? We have a fun quiz that will find your mythical creature personality based on the popular Myers–Briggs Type Indicator.

Enjoy this mythical creatures personality test to unleash your inner strength.

Mythical creatures are real or just mere imaginations, it is a never-ending debate. Multiple research on mythological creatures has found that there were instances of giant-sized animals that went extinct much earlier. 

These creatures are believed to have superpowers and mos

Up Next

Inside Out Zodiac Signs: Which Emotion Represents You The Best?

Interesting Inside Out Zodiac Signs: Which One Are You

Ever wondered how the personalities of zodiacs could match up with the colorful characters from the beloved animated film “Inside Out 2”? The Inside Out zodiac signs, much like the emotions in the movie, bring their own blend of traits and quirks to the table.

So, if you’re a Pixar fan and want to see zodiac signs as Inside Out characters then read more below and it has a unique vibe, just like Riley’s emotions.

Inside Out Zodiac Signs: Which Emotion Are You?

Up Next

6 Zodiac Signs That Overshare: They’ve Got To Tell You Everything!

Funny Zodiac Signs That Overshare Everything!

Do you find yourself caught in a conversation where someone just can’t stop sharing every detail of their life? While it can be entertaining, it can also be a bit overwhelming. And below are 6 zodiac signs that overshare. Talk about TMI!

These zodiac signs tend to overshare and are more prone to being over expressive. So if you want to find out reasons behind why some people just have to tell you everything. Check out the oversharing zodiac signs below!