Are we all creative?
What is a creative idea? Are some of us really more creative than the others? Does that mean that people who are lousy at drawing or do not have any talent for writing poetry can never be considered creative? Despite the common stereotype that not all people are gifted, many studies show that all of us are extremely creative. We all have creative ideas, just not everybody makes them public or pays attention to them at all. Besides, a creative idea is something, that is novel and useful, it concerns all spheres of our life and is not limited to “traditional” creative fields.
Until recently, creativity was considered to be something very vague, a process inside our brain, that can not be tracked. In 2012, Allen Braun and Siyuan Liu decided to study the electrical activity in the brain of rappers doing freestyle. This approach allowed them to examine one of the most obvious examples of creativity and find out how does it actually work. According to the results of the study, creative thinking makes some everyday working areas of our brain “switch off” and lights up others, which we do not use often. For example, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that regulates the functions of other brain parts is deactivated, thereby creating a natural unfocused attention. The area that is activated during this kind of improvisation—the medial prefrontal cortex—is responsible for emotional responses and associations. Surprisingly, this kind of brain activity resembles the one which can be seen during our sleep.
Why does it happen in a shower?
Have you ever noticed that great ideas often come to us in the shower? What could possibly be the reason for it? A leading neuroscientist Alice Flaherty explains the level of creative drive by the level of released dopamine. So, this is exactly why the hot shower brings us creative ideas—it increases the level of dopamine. Though being very important, this chemical is not the only reason. Another necessary factor is a distraction. Harvard researcher Shelley H. Carson claims that a distraction is, in fact, a good thing. This way our brain is not fixated on a problem’s solution anymore. Showering does not require a lot of cognitive focus, so other parts of our brain can be active. This way you allow your mind to wander and subconscious ideas surface—this process is called an “incubation period”. A relaxed state of mind is very important in order to get the right response to dopamine. Usually, our focus is directed outward and we are concentrated on the details of a problem—it allows us to solve them analytically. But when the alpha waves of our brain are rippling, we direct our attention towards the right hemisphere; a process that leads to insights. Though it is a very popular opinion, that only one half of our brain is responsible for creativity, the process actually happens in both of them.
So, this is a “formula” for creative thinking—relaxed state of mind plus a high level of dopamine plus a light distraction. Hot shower is the place to get it all.
How to enhance creativity?
As evidenced by numerous studies, we are all gifted, we just need to capture the moments of creativity and use them to the fullest. You just need to keep track of all the tiniest ideas that enter your mind. The most simple way is to keep a notepad with you at all times and write down even the things that seem like unimportant—do not judge them immediately. The most difficult part is to actually keep it at all times. Try not to forget it while you are in the shower, running or shopping. There is even such a device as Aqua notes—it is a waterproof notepad, that can be used even underwater.
One more way to create a successful creative atmosphere is to provide your brain with the above-mentioned “incubation period”. Switch your attention to other tasks and your brain will process the information on itself. And when you return to the task, solutions will come to you immediately.
Some researchers use the technique of overwhelming tasks. Do not quit on challenging issues—this shock situation will demand your brain to engage more creativity-responsible areas.
These are only a few pieces of advice on how to increase and beef up the creativity of your brain. More ways exist and you need to figure them out for yourself.