Our Creative Wellness needs nurturing

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Our Creative Wellness needs nurturing. We take fitness classes to strengthen our bodies. We see therapists to care for our minds. We meditate, get massages, and take vacations to de-stress. But in our pursuit of wellness, we often neglect a critical element: creativity.

I’ll never forget my first encounter with the transformative power of creative thinking. It was during a design project in my first d.school class as a graduate student at Stanford. The task was simple yet intriguing: reinvent the ramen noodle experience. As someone who had survived on countless packets of budget ramen during my undergrad days, I thought I knew all there was to know about ramen. But this project, “The Ramen Project,” was about to turn my perspective on its head.

The assignment required us to step outside our comfort zones – visiting a gourmet ramen restaurant and an Asian supermarket. It was here, standing in line at Maru Ichi in Mountain View, that I experienced a profound epiphany. The realisation that ramen could be more than just a cheap snack, but a rich, varied culinary experience, was a jolt to my imagination. It was a perfect metaphor for the untapped potential of creative thinking in our everyday lives.

This experience taught me that creativity isn’t just about artistic expression. It’s about breaking out of ruts, challenging the status quo, and seeing challenges in new ways. Just as that day, I discovered the myriad possibilities of ramen, I realised that each of us has the capacity for creative breakthroughs in all aspects of our lives.

Engaging in creative pursuits enhances our problem-solving abilities, sharpens our minds, boosts our moods, and enriches our lives. Yet, we often stifle these creative gifts in our efficiency-driven society. We default to the familiar, failing to push our imaginations and, in the process, undermine our potential for innovation, meaning, and self-actualisation.

My mission in life, inspired by that epiphany, is to facilitate these moments of revelation for others. To show that creativity is not just about ‘doing design’ or being an artist. It’s about nurturing our cognitive and psychosocial fitness, akin to how we care for our physical and mental health.

Practically speaking, how can we incorporate creative wellness into our lifestyles? It starts with small steps: keeping a running list of problems to solve, setting daily idea quotas, seeking diverse inputs and collaborators. Even simply carving out time is a good starting point. Our creative brains, much like our bodies, need training and consistent exercise to stay nimble.

Imagine if schools taught creative thinking skills alongside maths and grammar. If employers offered creativity wellness programs alongside gym memberships. If we valued our creative optimisation as much as our BMI. It’s time we rethink what it means to be well and recognise creativity’s central role in living purposeful, fulfilling lives.

Our imaginations are our most valuable resource. Let’s start treating creative wellness with the same importance we give to our physical and mental health. A life lived creatively is a life lived fully. As I discovered with my revelation about ramen, the broth of life is rich with creative potential – it’s time we all take a sip.

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Jeremy Utley
Jeremy Utley is a world-leading expert on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. He’s an adjunct professor at Stanford University, a General Partner at Freespin Capital, and the co-author of Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters, which landed him on the Thinkers50 Top Ten Innovation Leaders watch list in 2023. His award-winning teaching has touched more than a million students of innovation over the last 13 years. A dynamic and engaging speaker, Jeremy translates his research into the history of invention and discovery into transformative learning experiences. His current research concerns the impact of generative AI on problem solving and innovation inside large organisations. As the Founder Stanford’s Masters of Creativity series (former Director of Executive Education), he considers himself to be a “front row student in the world’s coolest classroom,” and shines a spotlight on the ways every single one of us can emulate creative masters and grow in our own journey of becoming.