Unleashing Your Creative Potential: Building a Brainpower Playground

Boost Your Brain 8 Creative Tips for a Stronger & Happier Mind

8 Tips for Boosting Creativity and Happiness in Your Brain

Nov. 2, 2023 – Open your eyes, dear reader, and behold the wonders of creativity that surround us! From painters to architects, dancers to Ted Lasso writers (oy!), and even your fashion-forward friends, creativity is an omnipresent force. But here’s a nugget of wisdom that might blow your mind: you don’t have to be a tortured soul to possess this majestic skill set.

According to Art Markman, PhD, associate provost and professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, creativity is not limited to the capital-C creative endeavors. Creativity can be learned, developed, and nurtured. Yes, you heard it right! Flexing your creative muscles not only benefits your brain and overall health, but it also transcends boundaries, allowing you to express yourself in ways that are as loud and bold as a rock concert or as gentle as a whisper.

The Art of Better Living

Creativity goes beyond just painting pretty pictures or composing beautiful symphonies. It has profound effects on our health and well-being. Back in the day, the notion of a connection between creativity and health seemed as implausible as an AI writing half of this article (it didn’t, I promise!). However, recent research has shown that creativity has a positive relationship with well-being and can improve immune function. It even plays a vital role in alleviating conditions like Parkinson’s disease, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Christianne Strang, a neuroscientist and art therapist, explains that creativity has an adaptive value. Our ancestors, grappling with snarling beasts, might have concocted innovative solutions using their creative prowess. And while facing life-and-death situations still calls for such resourcefulness, the process of thinking creatively is universally good for humans. It opens new avenues for expression and empowers individuals, especially when it comes to dealing with mental health challenges.

What’s more, a virtuous cycle exists between creativity and mood. When you’re in a positive state of mind, your creative juices flow freely, generating original ideas. And in turn, being creative elevates your mood, triggering a dopamine boost that makes you feel like you’ve hit the jackpot!

The Creative Journey of the Brain

Curious about what happens in your brain when you embark on a creative adventure? Prepare to be amazed, my friend. The process of creativity involves a complex interplay of various brain networks, particularly the executive function areas (for logical thinking) and the default-mode network (for mind-wandering and daydreaming).

Behold, the four stages of the creative process:

  1. Preparation (executive function): No great symphony was composed in a day. Likewise, to kickstart your creative journey, you must first identify the problem, set goals, establish boundaries, or acquire new skills. It’s like mastering the basic chords before shredding a center-stage guitar solo.

  2. Incubation (default-mode network): Ah, the magical realm of mind-wandering! Here, you grant yourself time and space to let your thoughts roam freely. It’s akin to gently simmering a pot of neurological jambalaya, allowing ideas and solutions to bubble to the surface. As it turns out, walking away from your problem and engaging in “mindless” activities is the secret pathway to enhanced creativity.

  3. Illumination (default-mode network): Picture this: you’re taking a shower when suddenly, a brilliant idea strikes like a bolt of lightning. That’s the power of illumination, my friend! These eureka moments are closely tied to the salience network of the brain and are often accompanied by a surge of emotions. It’s when your brain connects the dots, unlocking a realm of possibilities you might have never imagined before.

  4. Verification (executive function): Now comes the final stage, where you evaluate your creative ideas using the prefrontal cortex and follow through with execution. It’s crucial to validate these ideas, especially in important contexts like creative medical solutions. However, remember that even “bad” ideas have a purpose—they pave the way for creative growth and experimentation.

Cultivating Your Creative Garden

Now that we’ve embarked on this journey through the depths of creativity, it’s time to equip ourselves with the knowledge and strategies to become true brainpower champions. Here are some tips to help you unleash your full creative potential:

  • Give yourself plenty of incubation time: Follow in the footsteps of neuroscientist Indre Viskontas, who enjoys running along the same route repeatedly to achieve a mindless state. Whether it’s taking a shower, going shopping, or going for a leisurely stroll, these activities can work wonders for your creative process.

  • Change the way you brainstorm: Instead of traditional brainstorming sessions, where groups come up with a barrage of ideas, try individual brainstorming first. Then, gather as a group to evaluate and build upon those ideas. This approach allows for more effective idea generation and evaluation.

  • Close your eyes: Your visual cortex becomes less active during creative moments, so embrace the freedom to look inward and screen out distractions. Take a page out of Carola Salvi’s book and channel your focus on your inner world—just like those moments when you find yourself gazing at the ceiling during brainstorming sessions.

  • Consume, consume, consume: The more you read, watch, and learn, the bigger the library you’re building in your brain. Knowledge is a catalyst for creativity. As Art Markman puts it, “A lot of times what you’re doing is applying knowledge where it hasn’t been applied before.”

  • Get in tune with your tendencies: Understanding your chronotype—the times when you naturally focus best and when your mind wanders—can optimize your creative process. Aligning your tasks with your natural rhythms enhances the overall experience.

  • Stop short: Imagine this: you’re at the verge of completing a creative endeavor, but instead of finishing it outright, you pause just shy of the finish line. By doing so, you allow yourself a head start for the next session, obliterating the fear of the dreaded blank page or canvas.

  • Embrace the bad ideas: Fear not the embarrassment that comes with bad ideas! Creative minds flourish when free from self-censorship. As suggested by Markman, “The people with the best ideas have the most ideas.” So, let those ideas flow, even if some may seem less than perfect. Embrace your mistakes—they hold intrinsic value in shaping your creative journey.

  • Try something new: Learning new skills, especially in creative arts or any other field of interest, fosters brain development and innovation. As Markman discovered when he picked up the saxophone in his 30s, experimenting with something novel stimulates your mind and nurtures your creative spirit.

So, dear reader, I implore you to venture forth and harness the beautifully unpredictable power of your creative potential. Remember, being creative is a reward in itself. So let loose, take risks, and unveil the vast horizons of your imagination. Your brain will thank you, and the world will be a far more colorful place with your unique contribution!

Now it’s your turn! How do you nurture your creativity? Have any tips or stories to share? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below.