Why you should have a childlike imagination – even when you’re not a child

As children, we’re encouraged to think and play creatively – and for a good reason. Being imaginative is vital to a child’s cognitive development, helping to create an understanding of reality and develop emotional capacities.

Yet, as we grow older, the amount of time spent practicing playful curiosity and creative imagination starts to decline. Whether it’s due to a simple lack of practise as we focus on logical thinking instead, or the fear of being wrong, we start to avoid imaginative behaviours.

Family Literacy Day, taking place nationally on January 27th, provides the perfect opportunity for all family members – young and old – to reignite their imaginations. The national initiative, started by ABC Life literacy Canada, aims to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.

This year’s theme is Travel the World Together. Families are encouraged to use their imagination to explore the world from the comfort of their home, such as planning a dream trip, learning about another culture or following a recipe for an international dish.

Here are six of the most significant benefits gained from using your imagination.

1. Enhance your memory and live longer

Besides creating visual images in your mind, being imaginative preserves the memories you already have. Using your imagination makes more neurons in your brain and reduces the likelihood of developing memory problems that lead to dementia. Continuing to exercise your brain by using your imagination helps prolong your life while keeping you forever young, too.

2. Achieve your goals

Utilize your imagination to dream about your successes and how you can reach your goals. Specific types of imagery are proven to stimulate attentional brain networks that help focus your attention. When specific brain regions activate, you can unconsciously plan your path to success.

3. Increase your problem-solving skills

Successfully creating alternative ways of thinking is related to your ability to imagine. Having strong problem-solving skills can help you overcome various obstacles throughout life – from school to work to social situations.

4. Develop your self-confidence

The ability to explore different images and ideas, judgement-free, allows you to uncover your inner self. Fears diminish regarding your life’s path, and you start developing more confidence in your abilities and potential. Trusting your thoughts and feelings helps benefit your overall well-being immensely.

5. Grow your empathy

Your imagination provides you with the ability to imagine yourself in another person’s shoes and form stronger bonds on a more intimate level. Even when you haven’t experienced what someone else is going through, being imaginative helps you empathize with that person. By being more observant and collaborative, you can brainstorm creative ideas to handle conflicts, which results in less combative behaviour.

6. Relieve stress and improve relationships

Creative activities and imaginative games with family, friends or coworkers lead to an opportunity to destress and recharge our brains. Without the physical world’s limits constraining your thoughts, you can experience a very freeing feeling that connects you to that childlike part of yourself.

 The bottom line

As a child, being imaginative helps teach crucial psychological, social and emotional skills. As an adult, embracing your imagination is equally important and provides numerous benefits, especially regarding mental health.

The key takeaway? No matter your age, using your imagination and being creative is something worth doing. Why not revisit your imaginative side this upcoming Family Literacy Day? Get started with the free resources available at FamilyLiteracyDay.ca.