When you ask people about the things that matter most in life, you’d be hard-pressed to hear an answer that doesn’t include some version of “relationships”. The people in our lives, be they family or friends, mean everything to us. The power of relationships isn’t a secret, but it is something of a mystery. Why is it that other people have such a profound impact on our lives and happiness? There are plenty of reasons, but one interesting one is that human interaction increases creativity, which in turn leads to a happy, more fulfilling life.
Creativity and happiness
Creativity doesn’t just apply to people we’d typically label as “creatives”. Everyone can use creativity—at home, at work, in their personal development efforts, and so on. Creativity has an important place in the world and in our experiences as individuals in that world.
For that reason, it makes sense that things that help build, expand, or encourage creativity would also make us happier.
3 ways human interaction increases creativity
Human interaction is one of those things. The way I see it, human interaction increases creativity in 3 powerful ways: it changes how we think, how we feel, and how we behave.
Human interaction changes how we think.
Imagine having to interpret the world entirely on your own. You would never hear other thoughts, ideas, experiences, or opinions. The things you believe today would be the things you believe forever. (Or until you, of your own accord, decide that you believe something different).
On the surface, this doesn’t sound so bad. In fact, that type of independent, free thinking is often lauded among creatives.
But as we’ve discussed before, interdependence is extremely valuable, in life and in creativity. Hearing other ideas keeps you from getting too set in your own ways. It brings open-mindedness and perspective you probably wouldn’t find on your own. Listening to other people’s experiences allows you to see the world through different eyes.
Not to mention, exposure to other ideas helps you think in new ways. The more creative ideas you see, the more creative ideas you’ll have.
Interacting with other people—learning from them, hearing their stories, and seeing things their way—can help change the way we think and increase creativity.
Human interaction changes how we feel.
One of the first things we think of when we think of how other people affect us is the effect they have on our emotions. Love—familial, platonic, or romantic—is a powerful force that can change our lives.
Why does this change impact and increase our creativity? Because at its core, creating is an emotional endeavor. Our emotions (good or bad) fuel creativity and help infuse personality, meaning, passion, and intent into our work.
The best creative works make us feel something. They are also created with and inspired by emotion. The more human interaction we have, the more emotion we’ll have, and the more we’ll be able to use that emotion to increase our creativity.
Prefer a more scientific explanation? A 2009 study found that thinking about a romantic partner (or an ideal romantic partner) increased levels of dopamine, a chemical also associated with increased creativity and focus. Comparatively, participants who thought only of a sexual experience had higher levels of testosterone-motivated analytical thinking.
In short, opening yourself up to human interaction increases creativity because it exposes you to more (and deeper) emotional experiences.
Human interaction changes how we behave.
Finally, human interaction increases creativity because it changes how we behave. This can mean a number of things, but I really want to talk about it in terms of empathy and mental health.
“Empathy is the wellspring of creativity.”
As long as we go into it with the right mindset, human interaction builds empathy. The more we get to know others and connect with them beyond a superficial level, the more we become willing and able to experience their emotions with them. This expands perspective and prompts creativity. Empathy can also open our eyes to new problems in the world and motivate us to solve them.
Human interaction also benefits mental health (and physical health, too). This has been widely studied, and each of us got a taste of how social isolation can detract from mental health during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The connection between mental health and creativity is a little less clear. While there is a correlation between depression or anxiety and increased creative thinking, it is also true that being in a healthy mental state can benefit not only your creativity, but also your ability to get creative work done.
The waters are undoubtedly muddy, so I will speak from my own experience here. As someone who has struggled with mental health for years, I know that I am at my most creative and my most productive when I am having a good mental health day. I can focus, be deliberate in my creative thinking, pursue exciting lines of thought, and get into flow.
For those reasons, I know that for me, anything that will benefit my mental health (like human interaction) will also benefit my creativity.
Human interaction is important for all of us. We are hardwired for connection. We need each other. And one reason for that is that human interaction increases creativity, changing how we think, feel, and behave so we can reach the full extent of our creative thoughts and perform our absolute best when creating.