Can You Become More Creative?
The Best Methods For Boosting Creativity Levels
A large number of our readers are creative professionals. This makes sense; nootropic supplements support cognitive function and mental energy, and creative professionals as a group stand to gain from boosting their focus, their mental acuity and their energy levels more than most.
But improving your memory, attention span, or your mental stamina is just half the story for these people. Once they have the ability to use their brain to its full potential, they need to put it to work and get creative!
While some brain supplements can help with verbal fluidity and vocabulary accessibility, having the vision to turn these words into something powerful needs to come from you.
While there aren’t any supplements that can help you achieve that ‘light-bulb moment’ or that “flow” that often precedes a great artistic composition, there are a number of things you can do to naturally boost your creativity.
We’re going to discuss some of the best known ways to naturally increase creativity and imagination, as well as some ways that you may not have heard of before.
While it is inherently difficult to put a number on these techniques and to make a direct comparison between them, we will try to highlight the methods we believe to be the most effective and the most practically useful to creative professionals in the modern world of work.
Hopefully this will be as valuable a resource for the web developers, graphic designers, writers and architects out there as the supplements we review!
Burn The Midnight Oil (or the Early Morning Oil)
You will have heard people telling you that working late into the night can be very beneficial to the creative process quite a few times. It is a widely accepted idea, in no small part because it seems to be true.
The cliché of the writer working through until dawn might seem like an old trope, but it really does happen. People say that inspiration comes when you least expect it, and this often manifests itself as a late night revelation.
Yet the benefit doesn’t come from simply working late at night; the flood of creativity seems to come from working when your brain is getting tired.
This will sound counter-intuitive to those of you used to trying to optimize your brain’s energy levels, but we aren’t talking about doing paperwork or meeting with clients here. We’re talking about creativity.
Take this study for example, which looked at the effects of time of day on problem solving abilities.
However, rather than simply looking at night vs. day, this study makes the more important distinction between optimal and non-optimal times of day.
The results were pretty convincing: “The findings indicate that tasks involving creativity might benefit from a non-optimal time of day.” Interestingly, the study also looked at analytical problem solving, and found that time of day had no significant impact on performance.
To explain the difference in results, the researchers suggest that the inhibition-reducing effects of being tired, or as they put it, in a “non-optimal” time of day, are key. As they put it: “Given the presumed differences in the cognitive processes involved in solving these two types [insight and analytical] of problems, it was expected that the reduced inhibitory control associated with non-optimal times of the day would differentially impact performance on the two types of problems.”
We have known for years that lowering inhibitions can hep foster creative thought. Anecdotal evidence abounds, and it is now joined by a growing body of scientific evidence.
This is the real driving force behind the perception of improved creativity late at night: working at “non-optimal” times, when your brain is tired and your inhibitions are diminishing.
So whether you need some inspiration to get through the next chapter of your book or you need to boost your creativity at work, try either get started either much earlier than usual or working much later than normal.
Look At Certain Colours
This one will probably be a vaguely familiar idea, but we doubt you’ve thought about using it as a concrete method for boosting creativity before.
Different colours have different effects on our brain. That is precisely why certain signs are always in the same colour. Some are instantly recognizable, some make us thing of danger, others make us fee calm and sedated.
Obviously this phenomenon is of great interest to the advertising and marketing industry, so luckily for us, a fair amount of money has been put into finding out exactly what certain colours do to our brain.
One study conducted by the University of Colombia in 2009 found that blue is able to make us think more abstractly.
Another recent study found that flashes of green were able to improve performance in creativity challenges. The authors state clearly in their abstract: “In four experiments, we demonstrated that a brief glimpse of green prior to a creativity task enhances creative performance. This green effect was observed using both achromatic (white, gray) and chromatic (red, blue) contrast colors that were carefully matched on nonhue properties, and using both picture-based and word-based assessments of creativity.”
You can’t really get much clearer than that.
While we aren’t suggesting that you re-paint your study blue and set up a flashing green light in the corner, perhaps you could get some paintings heavy in green and blue and put them in your office. Spend 5 minutes gazing at them when you come across your next big problem and the solution might present itself a lot faster.
Put Your Hands To Work
Physically doing something with your hands can really help get the creative juices flowing.
Whether it is playing with a simple toy while you take a break from a tough design, sketching something on your lunch break, or it’s spending your free time building something at home, doing something with your hands seems to be a powerful way of encouraging imagination and abstract thinking.
There are many reasons why doing something with your hands might aid in creative thinking.
For one thing, it momentarily takes your mind off the task at hand. This break in concentration can allow you to ‘reset’ your approach to the problem. We are sure you have experienced this before; you are stuck at deadlock trying to solve a problem for hours, and when you walk to the store to buy a soda, the solution just whizzes into your head.
Another is that intricate hand-eye co-ordination excites very specific parts of the brain. If you’re using both hands, some people believe that you can facilitate better connections between different parts of the brain. This allows for different, more imaginative ways of thinking.
To benefit from this you really don’t need to be doing something very complicated. Lots of people now believe that fidgeting helps ‘open up’ the imagination.
This is largely why many companies are now encouraging their workforce to have toys on their desks; the so called ‘fidget-widgets’. Flicking something, turning something round and round in you fingers, or just aimlessly doodling are all posited as god ways to foster creative, unique thought.
Listen To Music
This is perhaps the tactic that you can most easily put to work right away, and which can perhaps make the biggest difference in the long-run. Listening to music can give you an immediate and profound influx of creative thought. This is one creativity-boosting method that you can probably feel working.
Many famous artists utilized music while working to let them get into their creative ‘flow’.
Saul Bellow famously wrote with Mozart blaring (he was enraptured by Mozart and gave a stirring speech at a celebration of the composer’s work).
In fact, improved spatial reasoning after listening to classical music has been dubbed ‘The Mozart Effect’. Of course, the effect is not limited to the music of Mozart, but his music has been used frequently in studies looking at whether or not music is able to improve cognition or creativity. The exact criteria for effective music remains unknown, but intricately composed classical music seems like a safe contender.
On this point, the literature is quite divided. Some studies have seen vast improvements but short-lived in spatial intelligence after subjects listened to classical music for just 10 minutes.
Other studies failed to replicate the results, finding no improvement in intelligence scores after listening to classical music for a short period.
Despite the research turning up contradictory results (and in science that does usually just give us one result – a negative result), the sheer weight of anecdotal evidence, the existence of some pretty convincing scientific data to back it up, and the absence of any real cost make us think this is worth trying if you are looking to supercharge your creativity.
Henry is a long-time contributor to this site. He has years of experience both using natural nootropic supplements, enhancing productivity, and generally making himself a more efficient, effective, healthier person. He mainly writes about natural cognitive enhancement (through diet, behavior, practices, etc).