Skip to content

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

emotions help creativity

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:
Republished with permission.
emotions help creativity pin
What Emotions Help Creativity? Why Creativity Is Not Solely Dependent on Happiness
Pages: 1 2

Zorana Ivcevic Pringle

Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, received a doctorate from the University of New Hampshire (with Dr. Jack Mayer, co-creator of the theory of emotional intelligence), and did postdoctoral research at the Interpersonal Communication and Interaction laboratory at Tufts University (with Dr. Nalini Ambady who pioneered research on thin slices of behavior).View Author posts