This spring, while the pandemic was gathering speed and we began our second year of work-from-home reality, the theme of our annual Women’s Day Pre-Party was “Dreams, Courage and Creativity” with DocEmilia, M.D, author and entrepreneur Emilia Vuorisalmi, as our expert guest speaker.
Senior Associate Suvi Syvänen joined DocEmilia in the studio and interviewed her on the scientific knowledge and her personal experience of how to balance the three main love hormones – dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – and how to take steps for healthier, more balanced life with dreams, courage and creativity playing an important part therein.
Inspired by the discussions with DocEmilia during and after the virtual event, Suvi wrote a column on her own thoughts on dreams, courage and creativity. Please go ahead and read further.
Creative thinking makes us feel alive
Are your dreams really yours – or dreams of a lawyer?
As a kid, you might have dreamt of being a professional athlete and an astronaut – both at the same time. What is more, you were not afraid to openly declare this to any aunt or uncle enquiring about your future plans.
However, something changed as we grew up. Some of us got so focused on living our busy lives that our dreams got trampled underfoot. Others may have become one with our professional identity and begun walking a ready-made path loaded with traditional expectations. Regardless of the reason, we seem afraid to dream big, let alone state our dreams out loud. But what does this mean for our wellbeing?
Why do painters paint?
During our event, it became clear that finding meaning in what we do is part of our biology. However, I noticed that I had long thought of meaning in a very traditional way. For example, working as a lawyer is meaningful because of the impact of the work on our society. This may be true, but from the perspective of our own wellbeing, it is equally important to look at the personal side of meaning. If we solely focus on what our work means to others, or blindly work towards goals traditionally connected to our profession, we may feel stressed out and empty despite all the common good and success brought by our actions.
Instead of blindly chasing the ‘shoulds’, we should pay more attention to what brings joy and meaning both to us personally and the society around us. By ensuring that the path to our professional goals also feels meaningful, we ensure a steady flow of dopamine along the way, instead of a short burst of the reward hormone at the moment of accomplishment. As Emilia put it, a painter does not paint because painting itself is meaningful; meaningfulness is rather a by-product of the joy of working towards their dreams.
Creativity is not just for artists – it is an inbuilt need for human beings
We all understand that in the fast changing world we live in, fostering innovation is crucial. What may become as a surprise for many is that all human beings actually have an innate need to be creative. Whether our strengths lie in problem solving, planning corporate structures or visualizing complicated issues, we all have one thing in common – creative thinking makes us feel alive. Scientifically, this is because it releases a flow of dopamine – the chemical of motivation and reward. In this light, it seems only natural that performing routine tasks on ‘autopilot’, without the possibility to affect our environment, tends to make us shut off and eventually lose our motivation.
To boost our creativity and motivation, one element is crucial – having enough space to think. As high stress levels negatively affect our ability to innovate, the modern workplace focused on efficiency and productivity may undermine our inbuilt need to think outside the box. Therefore, we need to actively build the right environment to foster creativity. The good news is that creativity attracts creativity. Once you take the first steps, more will follow.
Courage – what you are willing to put up with is exactly what you will have
During our Women’s Day Pre-Party, one of our guests asked an important question about boundaries. Indeed, the key in reaching your dreams and finding enough space for joy and creativity is prioritizing and understanding that you cannot – and should not try to be everything to everybody. It is too easy to create a habit out of always being flexible, but this comes with the cost of your own dreams and goals. What you tolerate is what you get.
The key in reaching your dreams and securing a steady flow of dopamine is setting healthy boundaries. Prioritizing may not be liked by everyone, but in the long term it will pay off. At least in dopamine.