Insurance Update
April 2015
Issue No. 56          
In this issue

Cognitive Focus  

How being creative helps to make you happy 



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Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.

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As we bring you our spring greetings, a number of seasonal words come to mind. Gardening words, like blooming, greening, and flowing. Easter words like resurrection and new life. Weather words like fresh winds, soft rains, and warm sunshine.


Whether you have survived the wintry climes of the northern Midwest, the Snowpocalypse suffered in the east and northeast, or the milder southern or western latitudes, you know how spring makes you feel. Alive! The creative powers of God and the earth itself are at work and on display.


So we think it's fitting to devote this issue of Insurance Update to creativity and its connection to health. What is creativity? Are you a creative person? What do the studies show? What do cutting-edge thinkers have to say about creativity? What can help put you on a creative path?


The purpose of insurance is to help us when we come into difficulties, but the hope is that we will never need to use it. So know that the Insurance staff of BBT wishes you a creative and healthy spring, and a blessed Easter season filled with hope.

Lynnae, Tammy, and Connie
Keeping the creative spark alive as you age
If you've ever worried that you're getting less creative as you grow older, it might be helpful to review these excerpts that reference author Tony Wagner's book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. The following is advice to guide your way on life's creative path.


Shut out the noise. At some point, it's time to stop blaming family, friends, and life circumstances. Wagner tells us to look inward. Ultimately the path to innovation requires a certain kind of inner strength, a spiritual discipline. It's important to cultivate the discipline of listening to yourself. Even if you have no support, the support that ultimately matters most must come from within.


Believe in yourself and your vision. Begin by making a declaration of yourself and your intentions. Put a stake in the ground by making a statement out loud in front of a mirror. Write about your passions in a journal entry, or just jot them down on a piece of paper. We all have ideas and perceptions, but you can't follow your dream and vision unless you can give it a voice.


Continue to learn. We are wired to be lifelong learners. It's in our DNA. Is the spirit of curiosity still alive as you get older? Listen to your own questions, ideas, and interests and make time for them. Wagner recommends continuing to study things that you care about and developing an area of expertise, inside or outside a formal classroom setting. Seek out teachers who are passionate about their subject. Make a sustained effort over time to master your own interests.


Redefine failure and embrace iteration. By now, you have failed -- probably more than once. And if you haven't, you are probably playing it too safe. According to Wagner you will learn much more from failure, even if you fail in public, than from success.  


We need to accept failure, and redefine it as a society. Wagner says it has become a pejorative in our vocabulary. No one wants to fail, and yet you can't pursue passion and purpose without a great deal of trial and error and multiple failures. Wagner prefers the term "iteration," a design concept that involves the continuous prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining of an idea or product.


Have fun. Creativity, imagination, and innovation usually find us during moments of play. Take time off and find ways to recharge your creative and physical energy, Wagner suggests. Take walks, get regular exercise, spend time in nature, listen to music, study paintings and photographs, volunteer.


Practice listening to many different kinds of people and ideas. More people are choosing their sources of news by only listening to those who reinforce their biases and points of view. This does you a disservice. Wagner suggests that we experience another culture. Read a thoughtful opinion piece that is diametrically opposed to your own, read history and good novels, explore other religions as a way of understanding the world.


Travel. Wagner also believes that travel is important as a way of expanding our view and upsetting our inclination toward equilibrium. But the type of travel matters. Are you engaging in just another form of consumption, or undertaking a potentially life-changing learning experience? Do you immerse yourself in authentic experiences, or wall off in a cocoon of the familiar?


Travel with the purpose of really understanding a culture, a way of life and being that is radically different from your own.


Work hard at mastery. By now, you are probably no stranger to discipline and hard work. In his book The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the importance of putting in 10,000 hours to master something.


There are no shortcuts to mastery for anyone -- young or old, though you may take solace in the fact that the creative process is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration (so is genius, as inventor Thomas Edison famously said).


Engage in self-reflection. Wagner emphasizes the importance of establishing a regular mindfulness practice, through meditation, writing in a journal, walking, yoga, or other pursuits.


If the passion for and benefits of creativity are ageless, then imagination, creativity, and innovation cannot just be a young person's game.


Young or old, Wagner says, "you must, first and foremost, be a creator."

Adapted from Amanda Enayati's article, "A creative life is a healthy life," --

No surprise: Creativity promotes health  

Did you know that being creative can contribute to your good health? You might say, "Well, of course!" There is something intuitively right about that observation. Creating something makes us feel good, and feeling good has health benefits. But did you know there is scientific evidence to support that conclusion? We are going to take a brief look at that evidence. But first, what is creativity?


You hear the word often these days along with allied terms like "innovation," "imagination," and "entrepreneurialism." People are more and more into creativity.


How important is it?

Creativity is now thought of as one of the engines that will drive the technology and the new economies of the 21st century. We must help young people find their creativity. Behind all this is the recognition that something deep and strong is evoked when people are creative.


What is creativity?

Linda Naiman on her website, "Creativity at Work," gives this definition:

Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas, but don't act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.



The psychologist Rollo May writes in The Courage to Create,

"Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy."


These are powerful and evocative definitions: turning new ideas into reality, seeing the world in new ways, finding hidden patterns, making connections, generating solutions, bringing to light what has been hidden-requiring passion, and producing ecstasy.


What happens

Think about what happens when you generate an new idea or direction in your work, or come up with a new recipe in your kitchen, or make something in your wood shop, or write something in your journal, or do a floral arrangement, or make up a bedtime story for your kids or grandkids, or get down on the floor with them and make original and fantastic Lego constructions. All of the above actions fit into the definition of creativity, and when people do any of these things, they almost always feel good.


Creativity and healing

In an article in the "American Journal of Public Health" (February 2010), Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel write, "Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease."


The idea that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process has been embraced in many different cultures. Throughout recorded history, people have used pictures, stories, dances, and chants as healing rituals. The authors cite many studies that show the restorative powers of visual arts, of writing, of music, of "movement-based" expression.


Creativity large and small

Studies show the health-giving power of what we might call large and obvious acts of creation -- painting, writing, music, and dance. What about small, everyday activities? This difference may be why some people say they are not creative. They don't see that cooking, playing with children, doing crafts, or decorating for a party are creative acts. However, it's very likely that most of you reading this will agree that these small activities make you feel good. So it is safe to come to a modest conclusion, not supported by scientific evidence, but maybe implied by it, that being creative in these small ways will also promote your good health.


No surprise

Neither these studies nor the above unscientific hunch go so far as to say that being creative will make us whole, but let's conclude by thinking about that and indulging in some theological speculation. If God is indeed the Creator, and if in some deep sense we have been made in God's image, then in an essential way we are creators too, and we find our true being when we are creative. If this is true, then the connection between creativity and health should be no surprise.
 TED talks on creativity 


If you have never watched a TED Talk on YouTube, take a short break and treat yourself to one or more of the links featured here. Each talk is the equivalent of a short, powerful sermon. To go along with our theme this month, we have supplied links to TED talks on six different aspects of creativity.


FYI: TED, which began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). Today, TED covers almost all topics - from science to business to global issues -- in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.


"Play, Passion, Purpose" -- Tony Wagner 


"A Crash Course in Creativity" -- Tina Seelig  


"7 Steps of Creative Thinking" -- Raphael DiLuzio   

 LTCILong-Term Care Insurance

Creativity may help you feel young at heart, and here's hoping you are that fortunate! But even the most creative, young-hearted folks live to old age, and sometimes they need to be creative about their long-term care planning. Brethren Benefit Trust can help. We offer Long-Term Care Insurance for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities. 

If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or click here to request more information.