New research continues to shed light on the remarkable ability for the brain to adapt and function better. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been a useful tool for scientists in this respect. For example, scientist Adam Green, director of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition and president-elect of the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity (TSFNC), is leading a team looking into how the brain can be “zapped” to boost creativity. What they have shown us is that the brain is remarkable in thinking outside of the box, but it takes both effort and time.
These are five science-backed, easy tips for better creativity:
1. The brain as a muscle – use it!
One of the first things is that the brain, like any other organ, acts like a muscle. It improves with practice. To improve the creative functions of the mind, you need to practice.
“Creativity isn’t made out of a magical fairy part of the brain,” Green cautions. “It’s essentially using all the same tools that go into doing everything else … but applying those tools in creativity-specific ways.”
Starting with something small is useful, such as writing Haiku poems, or trying out an instrument, or even creative writing. These help get the creative muscles flexed.
The positive side of the mind as a muscle is the ability to build, improve, and maintain high performance. Green points to an “age-old adage” in neuroscience that “cells that fire together, wire together”. In other words, the more you use your brain, the stronger the connections. The negative side is the ability for improvements, if not maintained or developed, to get lost.
2. Creativity needs order
You simply need to get it into shape. A rigid routine may help some with creativity, but what is needed is a creative activity at a rigid time.
Creativity may best function for some in an environment restricted in time and space. That time and place becomes a space for planned imaginative activities. It could be visualisation, typing, painting, playing an instrument, and so on. You need to make this a routine while allowing space for open-mindedness.
3. Change the space or the time
Something that may help some more than others. Rather than a rigid routine, you can take advantage of a change of space or time to boost your creativity. Keep one rigid; make an alteration in the other.
“You want your physical and social surroundings to change,” says Robert Epstein, head research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. “If it’s the same old stuff on the walls and your desk — and the same people you’re talking to — that’s not necessarily good for creativity.”
If you opt for a coffee shop, a beach front, or a library instead of a home station, then that is good. The point is to experiment and find out what works best given your skills and preferences. Some people need the constant hum of conversation that a coffee shop gives. Others need absolute silence from a place at home or at a library. But you could switch from mornings to evenings or from the outdoors to the indoors and so on.
4. Find the new to make the new
New ideas can come from new activities and observations away from our comfort zones. Do you spend a lot of time indoors? If so, take some time to go outside and explore nature, look at the flora and fauna. You can check out other surrounding areas to see the wildlife and gain new insights into other species. Why not go to new events, dances, wine-tasting, food conferences, science and technology symposiums?
“New ideas come from interconnections among old ideas,” says Epstein, who employs an exercise titled “the experts game” to demonstrate this. In the exercise a few people in a group with knowledge of a vague topic give 5 minute lectures. After learning about certain topics, such as the history of watches, everyone conjures up at least three ideas for new products or services.
These can stimulate new observations about the world around you. These new observations can then sit in the back of your mind until that prime time to incorporate them into creative productions.
5. Record, record, record
Recording ideas can be the basis for creativity, especially through richer, and richer records over time. The records reflect you at different times in life. Much creativity can come from the combination of your different selves.
If you have an idea, write it down. As people age, the number of creative ideas they acquire doesn’t necessarily slow, but they tend to capture fewer of them.
“Capture now, evaluate later,” says Epstein, who says his research has shown over and over again that capturing your new ideas is likely the most valuable aspect of boosting creativity.
So, exercise your mind, have order, change place or time if need be, try to find new things and knowledge to create new things, and record material worth recording to have a repository for future creative productions.