The Creative Hiatus Part 5 – happiness coach Katharina Mühl: "Being creative makes you much happier"

| December 16, 2019 | | Reading time: 4 Minutes

Kreative Pause 5

Have you ever ex­perienced the flow state? That moment when in­spiration strikes and all of a sud­den every­thing works out perfe­ctly? This is one of the inter­sections where creativity and happiness con­verge. Katharina Mühl explains how this works exactly and how to get there.

You already know from the first part of the series that creativity is a moody companion and why exactly that is. Some people charm the muse with the help of sabbaticals, as did our colleague Tanja, who tells us about her journey around the world in parts 3 and 4 of our series. In this part we speak with Katharina Mühl, happiness trainer and mental coach, about the way creativity, happiness and the hiatus are connected. She talks about happiness not only on her blog or in the media, but also in 1:1 coaching sessions and in lectures in universities and schools. While Katharina Mühl offers so-called “entry workshops to happiness” in classes, she teaches creative skills at the Austrian Marketing University. Exciting subjects, aren't they? The focus of her studies lies on idea generation, idea evaluation and creative competence – because inspiration and happiness most often overlap.

How do happiness and creativity relate to each other?

Many people think that they are not creative at all – just as some assume  that they are not able to be as happy as others. But that's not true. In fact, we are all born with gifts of creativity and happiness and everyone has the potential to develop creative ideas. 

Actually, it is similar to our inherent body weight. We all are born with it and of course there are also people with more weight – that means creativity can be stronger or weaker depending on our personality – but just as our body weight, our creative competence can  change and develop throughout our life.

How do you accomplish to be creative in the workplace?

To achieve that, it is important to take a close look at your working environment: How can I create a workplace, in which I become creative? 

No wonder that companies complain about uncreative employees, when they have to sit in an open-plan office, have to have a tidy desk and no freedom to move around. There is no room for things that divert us of our usual flow of thoughts.

Of course, I, as an employee, can also make sure to create a pleasant working environment on a small scale. For example I could take a gymnastic ball into the office or ask for permission to work outside from time to time. 

Something that  is also very important to stay creative or to strengthen this competence is to simply stay curious. That means always trying out new things, for example by visiting exhibitions or attending various congresses. Of course it's good to have expert knowledge and to specialise in one area, but at the same time you should look to your left and right.

The series "Creative Hiatus" focuses on the fact that relaxation encourages creativity. Can you confirm that?

Yes, absolutely. A flash of inspiration usually happens, after you familiarised yourself with a topic, but then do something completely different, something enjoyable and distracting, i.e. a long walk.

An example for this is the story behind Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling says, she was riding a train, looking out the window and letting her mind wander when she saw this little wizard – Harry Potter – in front of her mind's eye. And she thinks that this idea came to her, because she was mentally free during the train ride.

We often believe that we have to work very hard on one topic. But especially when it comes to creativity, it's all about unwinding consciously. 

When I feel that I am trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts, it's about accepting it before moving on. The next step is to reflect: "How can I think differently, so that I feel better?” And then to implement this thought. 

How is it possible to be more present in the Now?

You can integrate small meditations into your everyday life. This can be done by consciously paying attention to what we hear, taste, feel or see. A mini-meditation for coffee lovers, for example, would consist of consciously listen to the way the coffee is being ground, how it smells and then consciously take a sip of coffee. In this way, you can link every coffee break to a mini meditation.

I also can feel immediate results when I sit down, lay my hands on my stomach and simply breathe 3,4,5 times into my stomach and consciously feel my breath. I inhale and concentrate on what is going on in my stomach and how my body feels, then exhale.

An APA study claims that those, who are creative are happier and those, who are happy, have more everyday creativity. What do you think about that? 

(Do you want to read more about the APA Study?)

It really is that way. The more often we experience good feelings, the more we expand our scope of thought and action, i.e. you can generate more ideas. If we are doing well, we automatically become more creative. 

But if, for example, we missed our airplane, we become so angry that we get a tunnel vision and can't think of any other option how to get from A to B. Not until we calm down and tell ourselves "everything is going to be fine", are we capable of thinking of solutions. Only when our brain is in a positive mood, we are ready to think creatively.

Actually, that is why it is so important for children to feel comfortable at school to be able to study well.

And: If we have a good idea, we feel it in our body – it's a wow feeling! We have this tingling sensation. 

Whenever I hold a creative session with my university students and we generate ideas, usually everybody is reacting the same way saying: "Yes, this is the idea, this one is awesome!” It's a feeling of happiness and of course, you want more of it. Being creative makes you much happier.

How do you train yourself to be creative and happy?

You have these experiences of success and want to experience them again and again. 

When I am in the creative process, I experience a flow state. This means, that I am completely absorbed in my task, forget the time and everything around me and the task corresponds exactly to my abilities, so I am neither challenged too much, nor too little. In this state we feel more energised, even though we invested energy and work. The flow state is very, very important, I think we should experience it in our job on a daily basis. 

If I know my own strengths and can use my abilities in my everyday life, then it is very likely that I will have many flow experiences.

Do you have your own recipe for happiness?

Yes, a lot actually! One of them helped me a lot this week. It was: Trust your own gut feeling. We often forget about that, but I think gut feeling is an important indicator of happiness. Very often we do something, because it logically seems to be the right thing to do, even if our gut feeling says something completely different. 

I want people to listen much more to what their gut feeling says. My gut knows exactly, which people are good for me and which people are draining energy from me – the problem is that we don't listen to our gut often enough. 



Thank you so much for the interesting interview, Katharina Mühl! In the next part of the series, we present more tips for mini breaks that fit in between deadlines, meetings, coffee gossip and all the other demands of everyday office life.

Credit: ©Katsiaryna