…and I think we all do! In the previous post about creativity, we discussed a few of the creative processes that occur in the brain. Now to the best part of this discussion: studies have shown, that you can indeed increase your creative thinking with minor change in your everyday life. Hooray! I have found a few ways that can help you think outside the box and develop new and bright ideas based on an increased level of creativity. Read on to learn more!
Challenge Your Routines Once in a While
Yes, it sounds obvious but nevertheless we have a tendency to do things repeatedly in the same procedure we are used to. Think about it: what did you eat for breakfast today? And yesterday? And I bet you drive the exact same route to work every morning?
By expanding your experiences and turning your daily routines once in a while it will actually move your creativity up a notch – both in the moment and in general. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change, even small changes in your everyday life will do.
Psychologist Dr Simone Ritter from Radboud University Nijmegen has found that even changing the way you make your usual sandwich in the morning will boost your level of creativity. She says: We should seek out unexpected experiences if we wish to think differently and approach problems with a fresh perspective. And when you consider creativity as a series of new brain connections this actually makes a lot of sense. Why? Because by expanding your experiences and knowledge you create a greater basis for connecting the dots – and thereby become more creative.
Take an Active Break
If you think about it, you always get the best ideas, when you are least expecting it: in the shower or on you’re way to work etc.
In the blog post ‘Inside Your Brain: What Happens When You Get a Bright Idea’, I mentioned mind wandering as an important way to let creativity flow. Mind wandering tends to occur during driving, reading and other activities where vigilance may be low.
This is how it works in relation to creativity: in your everyday activities the frontal lobes play gatekeeper roles, which decreases your ability to develop creative solutions. However, when your mind wanders the lobes are a little less active than usual and they go into a temporary sleep mode that allows new connections and ideas to pop to the surface.
The good thing is that you can promote this brain state. When trying to solve a difficult task and if you feel like you are stuck you should always remember to take some time off to breathe and think of something different. Studies furthermore show that the type of break you have is also very important.
Professor at University of California, Jonathan Schooler has discovered that the best way to encourage your mind to wander is to engage in a moderately physical but mentally undemanding task. For example you can get up and go for a walk or make yourself a lunch or take a shower. You should keep your body busy but your mind free.
So when you run into a problem that seems unsolvable take a break! Walk away and clear your head. By focusing on something different you increase your chances of developing a significant creative solution.
Get Your Sleep
When it comes to creative problem solving sleep is important. This is shown in several studies eg, one led by Ullrich Wagner called ‘Sleep Inspires Insight’. As the name implies the study showed that sleep increases your ability to have creative flashes of insight – in fact quite dramatically.
Giving research participants a difficult task tested the relationship between sleep and creativity. After sleeping for eight hours 59 per cent of the participants were able to solve the task. On the contrary only 23 per cent of participants could solve the problem after eight hours of wakefulness.
If you think your brain is sleeping when you are asleep you are wrong. Your brain is working to process and connect all the ideas and impressions you received during the day so you can retrieve them later – this is why you sometimes wake up and see things much more clearly.
Remember to get a good night sleep if you want to increase your level of creativity and get more magnificent ideas!
Don’t Worry Be Happy
Several different studies over time show that a good mood has a positive effect on creativity. This is awesome: by being happy you can actually increase your ability to think outside the box and get those bright insights.
One of the studies, led by Professor at Northwestern University Mark Jung Beeman, highlighted the relationship between positivity and creative thinking by measuring mood states (including positive moods and anxiety), personality measures, brain activity immediately preceding and during problem solving. Guess what? People in a good mood were more likely to solve problems, and they particularly increased their likelihood of solving them with insight – one of the great methods of creative problem solving.
There are several explanations for this connection between positivity and creativity. One proposes that positivity promotes a more global outlook enhancing access to distant or unusual associations and connections in the brain, which facilitates creative solutions and insight into problems.
All in all a positive outlook is never a bad thing and if your goal is an increased level of creativity you have yet another reason to smile at the world.