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WHY CREATIVITY MATTERS: Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. So what keeps us then from becoming the artists we dream of being and living our lives to the fullest?

Creativity itself may be to blame. For those who like scientific definitions, creativity is a slippery concept.

In The Courage to Create, Rollo May calls creativity "the encounter of the intensively conscious human with the world."

But for Ellen Langer, Harvard psychologist and bestselling author of Mindfulness, May’s encounter is about "living mindfully," and far from being the preserve of rare individuals – like Clint Eastwood or Georgia O’Keefe, creativity is an integral part of everyone’s makeup.

This is the main argument of Langer’s recent book, On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity (Ballantine Books). For Langer, art is a process rather than a product. It is about living in the moment, letting go of self-judgment, and of preconceived notions about artistic talent. "All it takes to become an artist is to start doing art," Langer writes.

 

HONOURING EARTH’S DREAM: For a growing number of Canadians, concern for the environment is the defining issue of our times. A younger generation is growing up with greater awareness of the need for a mutually enhancing mode of human presence with the Earth. Last fall’s release of Andrew Nikiforuk’s Pandemonium Bird Flu, Mad Cow Disease and Other Biological Plaques of the 21st, Century is a reminder that much remains to be done.

In Pandemonium, the award-winning Calgary science writer explores how globalization is making us more vulnerable to biological invaders in the form of anthrax, mad cow disease and a host of other plagues. Closer to home, there is the modern-day factory method of farming that has resulted in genetically altered and highly vulnerable livestock populations. And then there is climate change and warmer temperatures, which have proven a boon to disease-spreading organisms like mosquitoes. Nonetheless, Nikiforuk’s tone remains remarkable upbeat. Pandemonium is a global call to arms before it’s too late.

 

CAN YOU BOOST YOUR HAPPINESS? The answer is yes, according Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania. One approach is to focus on your personal or "signature" strengths.

First, choose your five most prominent strengths. Then, every day for a week try to apply one or more of them in a new way. Strengths include such things as enthusiasm, sense of humour, appreciation of beauty, curiosity and love of learning. The idea of the exercise is that using your major strengths may be a good way to get engaged in satisfying activities.

Want to learn more? Then check out the Signatures Strengths Questionnaire at: www.authentichappiness.org