Creativity & Health

“If I’m not creative, I get sick.”

I heard this provocative statement a few days ago at the American Orff-Schulwerk Association National Conference. Eleven hundred music teachers gathered this week in St. Louis for an intense schedule of workshops, concerts and evening folk dancing. These annual conferences are great opportunities to see teacher friends from far away and to grab some new ideas and inspiration for teaching.

Mary Alice and Peter Amidon are two of my favorite workshop presenters. They are former classroom teachers who these days devote themselves to community dance and song writing. They presented a song writing workshop at this years conference. I found that it was great fun to brainstorm rhyming verses and to write some simple melodies to nursery rhymes. I thoroughly enjoyed their workshop, but I was especially struck by the opening story that Peter told. He described how when he first started teaching he was doing a number of creative projects on the side. He noticed that when he was doing the side projects he was healthy and full of vitality. But when he was teaching in the classroom, he was often sick. He finally came to the realization that it was the creativity of the side projects that was making the difference. His personal experience was, that if he wasn’t being creative, he actually got sick.

This is a radical thought that perhaps could be dismissed. But looking at a less extreme version of the idea, it rings true. When I am challenging myself to try new things, when I allow time in my day for curiosity and exploration, when I’m writing or arranging a new piece for my students, I am full of good spirits and good energy. It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to see how this positive energy could lead to more well being and yes, even better physical health.

I think about my Dad, who at age 93 is learning new ukelele tunes and taking drawing lessons.  Could this be part of the secret of his longevity and good spirits?

What about you?  Do you feel a release of good energy when you’re involved in new projects and are stretched to create new ideas?  How does creativity affect your health?

~ Liz


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4 Responses

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  1. Vashti Summervill

    Thank you for this post. Also, thank you for your workshop at AOSA. I enjoyed your energy very much. You gave me some wonderful reminders to create an emotionally safe, joy filled harbor during the day for these little beings that we are so privileged to work with. Thank you!

  2. I think this is true, but also when you are in the classroom you are exposed to more uncovered sneezes and snotty hugs.

  3. Liz

    Thanks Vashti for your kind words. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the conference. And I agree, the work that we do is a privilege!

  4. Although it is true that we are exposed to more germs in the classroom (or teaching privately), I agree that using creativity is energizing benefits one’s spirit, adds joy and enthusiasm, and improves both health and relationships. I find this true whether composing, writing, quilting gardening, crafting . . . Bet Dr. Oz agrees!

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