How do you encourage creativity?
The unfortunate irony, is that the more you try to ‘force’ your creativity, the less likely it is to come. The less likely you are to have that ‘aha’ moment.
The reason for this, is that when we try and force anything, we become stressed – physiologically aroused. We produce more adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. And as such, we narrow our focus onto the thing we think is most pressing.
Creativity on the other hand, happens when we are relaxed. This in turn allows the mind to wander – to explore different memories and knowledge and to make unique connections out of those disparate topics. They say that all new ideas are just recombination's of old ones!
A 2000 study from Slovenia shows that ‘coherence’ in the brain is critical for creativity – that means disparate brain areas working in unison.
Meditation can help greatly in encouraging this then. When you meditate, you will be able to encourage a state of calm, that will allow you to access novel ideas and connections.
What’s more, is that you can use specific types of meditation in order to encourage this. One example is Cal Newport’s ‘Productive Meditation’. This is a form of meditation where – rather than completely empty your mind – you focus on a particular problem or creative pursuit and then try to come to a solution.
When was the last time you just sat and thought about something that was important to you?
When you do this, you will be able to actually practice using the parts of the brain we use for imagination and creative thinking. These include the ‘default mode network’. This is the network of brain regions that fire when we are not engaged with a task.
Interestingly, studies seem to show that we need to utilize a combination of both the default mode network and the executive control network in order to come up with useful ideas. In other words, free flowing nonsense that occurs when you’re falling asleep or drunk is not useful. But ‘mulling a topic over’ on the other hand can be extremely useful.
So, the next time you have a challenge, or you want to come up with a creative solution to a problem – take a moment out and ‘think on it’. Meditate on the subject, then let your mind just wander.
A creative solution may just come to you.
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