Creativity is an attribute that plays a substantial role in our ability to differentiate ourselves. In whatever you do, there’s a need to be creative.
While certainly some people are more creative than others, there are a number of practical things we can do to increase our capacity to be creative.
1. Take a nap. Einstein used to do short napping to tap into his more creative subconscious. I usually find 20 minutes is sufficient. Then when my phone alarm goes off, I turn it off, but remain stationary, and allow my mind to play in that semi-dream state, one level short of lucid dreaming.
2. Take a walk. The exercise increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the dentate gyrus, a vital constituent of the hippocampus in the brain, which is deeply involved in memory and cognition. Increased blood flow here allows more brain cells greater access to glucose, the brain’s main energy supply. Even though it only accounts for about 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes 20% of the body’s total energy. When working hard, it uses more energy per unit of tissue weight than a fully exercising quadricep. The problem is, there’s a feedback system that tells us when our quad is fatigued (it burns), but not one that tells us when our mind is fatigued—or out of energy—other than diminished cognition, which we’re often quick to bemoan, but slow to identify.
Coincidentally, on a molecular level, exercise also stimulates the brain’s most powerful growth factor, BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF aids in the development of healthy tissues (neurogenesis), particularly inside the hippocampus.
3. Change environments. Far too often our mental (particularly our creative) output becomes conditioned to our environment. After thinking the same ways while being in the same spot over a long period of time, it becomes increasingly difficult to have original thoughts in that same environment. That’s why so many will have “off-site” meetings in order to stimulate creative thought. I find that even just sitting somewhere else or rearranging my desk/office actually helps.
4. Be Happy. A study was done recently where people were brought into a room one by one and asked to connect two strings, each hanging from opposite walls. The walls were far enough apart that you couldn’t hold one string and reach the other. They couldn’t do it. The second set of individuals, before entering the room, were given a gift that delighted them. They were able to do it. Enjoyment, happiness, elation, etc. causes a release of dopamine into the prefrontal cortex, encouraging thought breadth (rather than depth) and increasing our abilities to think creatively.
For this reason, businesses having “off-site” meetings will often give gifts before they begin… you just gotta get that squirt of dopamine!
What methods do you use to boost your creativity?
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