Ever wonder what it takes to get the creative juices flowing?
The idea sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Kind of like summoning God, having some divine force at your fingertips.
If you could push a button or spin a dial, you’d already be doing it, wouldn’t you?
If a powernap, a powerwalk, or a purple pill could deliver a reliable dose of creativity, you’d be all over it.
You’ve tried everything: music, motivational books, visualization, bubble baths, exercise, chocolate. And if you read one more condescending butt-in-chair, tough-love, just-do-it platitude, you’re gonna’ scream.
I feel you.
Before giving up, however, before resigning yourself to another evening of Netflix binge-watching, you might want to pour yourself a glass of wine.
While I’m not advocating alcoholism as a treatment for writer’s block, there seems to be a scientific correlation between loosening up and getting those fresh ideas down on paper.
Indulge me for a moment.
Consider the tip of the tongue phenomenon. Those pesky names you can’t remember return to you when you change your focus, when you stop obsessing over them. When you’re relaxed, the answers present themselves, like bubbles rising to the surface.Consider the tip of the tongue phenomenon. Those pesky names you can’t remember return to you when you change your focus, when you stop obsessing over them. When you’re relaxed, the answers present themselves, like bubbles rising to the surface. Click To Tweet
In addition to improving certain aspects of memory and recall, relaxation enhances creativity.
But there’s more to creativity than simple relaxation.
The next time you find yourself struggling with a problem or a creative pursuit, consider trying one of these ten surprising creativity boosters.
Drink Two Beers
The drunk artist cliché endures for a reason.
Researchers discovered that people with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.075% (about two beers’ worth) performed better on creativity tests than their sober counterparts.
Subjects were given questions similar to those on the game show “Wheel of Fortune,” and their response time and accuracy were measured.
It turns out the slightly intoxicated participants correctly answered 40% more questions with a 20% faster response time, suggesting an altered state of attentiveness frees your brain for innovative thinking.Researchers discovered that people with a BAC of 0.075% (about two beers' worth) performed better on creativity tests than their sober counterparts. Click To Tweet
Draw Your Problem or Goal
People are naturally visual thinkers; in fact, 75% of your neurons are devoted to processing visual stimuli.
Dan Roam, founder of visual thinking consultancy Digital Roam, says sketching your obstacles opens the door to creative problem solving.
Brainstorming solutions verbally is like laying a fire, he says, with each suggestion adding another log to the fire.
When you draw a picture, however, your brain automatically begins visualizing your options, making new creative pathways.
Science tells us that certain types of meditation increase creativity, especially divergent thinking, the thought process for generating new ideas.
Researchers at Leiden University asked individuals to come up with possible uses for a common object such as a pen, an example of divergent thinking.
Those who participated in an Open Monitoring meditation session developed more ideas than those who did not.
Add a Restraint
Assuming endless possibilities is actually a hindrance to creativity.
Think of some of the masters in their field: Piet Mondrian created modernist masterpieces using only 90-degree angles and primary colors, while Miles Davis wrote “Kind of Blue” without using a single chord.
Sometimes, placing limits or constraints gives you more freedom to push your creative boundaries.
When you prune a rose bush, you get more luxuriant growth and profuse blooms. The same principle applies to creativity—a little constraint gives you more opportunities to innovate.
Listen to Classical Music: The “Mozart Effect”
It’s a well-known fact that students who sing or play musical instruments perform better on standardized aptitude testing, and in fact, major corporations use baroque music to cut learning time and increase retention during employee training.
These compositions use just the right tempo and cadence to activate both the right and left brain, relaxing your mind so you can concentrate more deeply, leading to greater creativity.
Try Sensory Deprivation
Float chambers have been used since the 1950s but it’s been only recently that scientists have discovered the creative benefits of sensory deprivation.
While the mechanism remains unclear, sensory deprivation appears to produce a state of relaxation necessary for creativity and divergent thinking.
In “Biological Bases for Creativity,” Colin Martindale says, “Perhaps the most common method used by creators [to achieve a creative mindset] is withdrawal so extreme that it verges on sensory deprivation, a condition that lowers cortical arousal,” which coincides with the relaxed, divergent thinking brought about in restricted stimulation environments.”
Einstein called “combinatory play” the secret behind his best scientific thinking.
He was famous for breakthrough ideas during his violin breaks.
Play combines memories, new ideas, fresh inspirations, and an understanding of our physical world into a cross-disciplinary environment that serves as a springboard for original thinking.
Play or Type with Your Non-Dominant Hand
If you’re a musician, try playing with your weaker hand. If you’re a writer, grab a legal pad and begin writing with your left hand.
To access the right hemisphere of the brain, the seat of creativity, engage with your non-dominant hand.
Accessing the right hemisphere allows greater access to “feelings, intuition, creativity, inner wisdom, and spirituality.”
Brain mapping suggests that one hemisphere is active when we’re using our preferred hand. Switching stimulates communication between both hemispheres.
Don’t Forget to Laugh
Laughter’s effect on our mood and physical health has long been accepted, but its effect on creativity is gaining recognition.
Stanford University professor emeritus of psychiatry William Fry says humor is a driving force behind creative thinking.
“Humor,” he says, “loosens up the mental gears. It encourages out-of-the-ordinary ways of looking at things.”
Pretend You’re Someone Else
Construal level theory suggests that people think about things that are near to them in time or space differently than they think about things more removed.
To test this theory, researchers asked two groups of people to draw an alien. The first group was told the drawing was to illustrate a book they would write later, while the second group was told the drawing was for a book someone else would write.
The drawings in the first group showed aliens with symmetrical, animal-like properties, not much different from earth creatures.
The second group’s drawings, on the other hand, were more creative with fewer animal characteristics.
What’s your favorite creativity booster?
How do you maintain your creative edge?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.