I am excited to continue this week of sharing interventions and insight from experts in positive psychology. Today’s expert, Dr. Marie Forgeard, shares her perspective on the intersection between creativity and well-being. Her positive exercise – taking a creative picture – provides an opportunity to practice creative thinking, and to reflect on your own creative process.
Today’s Expert: Marie J. C. Forgeard, Ph.D.
Marie Forgeard is an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Williams James College, a research psychologist at McLean Hospital, and a psychology instructor Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In her research. Dr. Forgeard explores topics at the intersection of positive psychology, clinical psychology, and social/personality psychology. She is particularly interested in the character strengths of openness and imagination, and how these strengths are related to well-being and recovery following highly stressful life circumstances.
One element of Dr. Forgeard’s work is developing novel interventions that harness these character strengths to promote well-being and furthering our understanding of whether and how creative thinking, or “the generation of ideas or products that are both novel (i.e., original, unusual) and useful (i.e., valuable, helpful),” contributes to psychological adjustment. Her research explores these questions in both clinical settings, such as exploring posttraumatic growth and creativity among individuals following adverse events, and community samples, such as evaluations of positive interventions designed to promote creativity.
Today’s Positive Exercise: Take a Picture!
This exercise is designed to help you explore what creativity means to you. To start, take a creative photograph of anything you’d like. There are no rules for what constitutes “creative” or even a “photograph” – the only thing that matters is that you find your photograph creative.
After taking your creative photo, consider the following questions:
- How did you get the idea for your picture?
- How did you implement your idea (in other words, describe your creative process)? How long did it take you to find an idea? How did you do it?
- In your opinion, why is your picture creative? Remember, creativity is somewhat of a subjective notion – so don’t worry about giving a right or wrong answer!
- How did it feel to be creative? Think about the emotions you felt at each stage of the process: when brainstorming for an idea, while planning or arranging your picture, while taking the picture, while reflecting on the process, etc.
The Science: See more of Dr. Forgeard’s publications here.
Forgeard, M. J., Pearl, R. L., Cheung, J., Rifkin, L. S., Beard, C. & Björgvinsson, T. (2016). Positive beliefs about mental illness: Associations with sex, age, diagnosis, and clinical outcomes. Journal of Affective Disorders, 204, 197-204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.06.038
Beliefs about mental illness affect how individuals cope with their symptoms. Positive beliefs about mental illness (PBMI) refer to perceptions of positive attributes individuals may identify in their illness, such as beneficial consequences, enhanced creativity or cognition, or growth through adversity.
The present study developed and tested a brief measure of PBMI in 332 adults presenting for partial hospitalization with a variety of acute psychiatric conditions.
Results indicated that older individuals and women had lower levels of PBMI than others, while individuals with bipolar disorder had higher levels of PBMI than others. PBMI significantly increased over the course of brief standard treatment. Baseline levels of PBMI, as well as changes in PBMI over the course of treatment, were associated with clinical outcomes including, but not limited to, depression and well-being. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder moderated the relationship between PBMI and only one clinical outcome, emotional lability. Increases in PBMI during treatment were associated with reduced emotional lability only in participants without bipolar disorder.
Our findings are limited by the naturalistic study design. In addition, the lack of ethnoracial diversity in our sample limits the generalization of results.
Our results suggest that PBMI are a distinct set of beliefs that meaningfully relate to demographic characteristics, diagnostic characteristics, and clinical outcomes. Future research should examine the mechanisms through which PBMI and outcomes are related, as well as determine whether interventions designed to address PBMI (and perhaps tailored for different diagnostic groups) have clinical utility.