Making – whether creating physical or digital artwork, working with textiles or wood, or engaging in pottery, calligraphy or jewellery – emerged as the most popular category of creative practice, with 23.9% of 47,924 people across Britain pointing to one of these as their favourite past-times. This was closely followed by musical activities – singing, playing an instrument or composing – at 23.8%. Gardening, reading, cooking and writing also proved to be popular.
UCL senior research fellow Dr Daisy Fancourt, who led the study, said the results revealed three main ways in which we use creativity as a coping mechanism to control our emotions: as a ‘distraction tool’ to block out stress and anxiety (76% of participants pointed to this as a reason to engage in creative activities); as a ‘self-development tool’ to build up self-esteem and inner strength (69%); and as a ‘contemplation tool’, to get the headspace to reflect on problems and emotions (53%).
‘This study is the first to show the cognitive strategies the brain uses to regulate our emotions when we’re taking part in creative activities,’ she said. ‘While previous studies have shown the strong link between creative activities and emotions, we've not been sure about how this has been happening.’