The topic of how to boost creativity is a fascinating one. Eating right, exercising regularly, finding a happy place to work; these are just a few of the things that can help you relax, thus allowing your creative floodgates to open. Below I have listed a collection of recommended methods and techniques. Research has been consulted, nutrition studied, and new wave thinking analysed. Enjoy!
1) Eat right
This is nothing new and astonishing. There is no end to research showing that a healthy balanced diet can have all kinds of positive effects on the body and mind. Although nothing is conclusive and many experiments have involved only animals (click here for details), certain foods are thought to increase protection for the brain, lower the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and improve learning capacity/motor skills. In essence, throw a couple of select super foods into your diet, and the odds are it won’t do your creativity any harm. Below are just a few of the concentration-enhancing, mood stabilising treats you can snack on during the course of a creative day. Oh and on a side-note, a great site for recipes which make use of all these foods is Deliciously Ella.
Berries are a great source of energy, and can often form part of a healthy breakfast or serve as a light snack. These super foods are high in energy and, as you will see below, one berry is amongst only a few plant-based foods to contain every amino acid (something uncommon in vegetables and fruits but common in meat and dairy).
Helps with: reducing DNA-damaging radicals.
Good source of: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, fibre, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin B-6, magnesium.
Helps with: protecting liver from contaminates, increasing sexual vitality, boosting immune system.
Good source of: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, potassium, vitamin B-6, magnesium.
Notes: contains complete protein.
High in energy and packed with good (unsaturated) fats as well as protein, nuts are the perfect on-the-go snack, or can be thrown into a smoothie or stir-fry for a bit of crunch.
Helps with: lowering risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease (click here for more).
Good source of: potassium, protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, magnesium.
Helps with: preventing coronary artery disease, cancers, and liver cirrhosis (as it contains high levels of selenium).
Good source of: vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, potassium , vitamin B-6, magnesium.
Helps with: lowering risk of heart disease.
Good source of: vitamin E, manganese, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B2, calcium,, iron, magnesium, vitamin B-6, potassium, fibre.
Recent years have seen health enthusiasts pioneer the green smoothie, and with good reason. While you might not want to drink these creations every day, their nutritional content is undeniable:
Helps with: the transportation of oxygen around the body, production of energy, and synthesis of DNA.
Good source of: vitamin B2, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Helps with: digestion and elimination (high in fibre).
Good source of: vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, iron, omega-3 fatty acids (phosphorus, niacin, folate, protein).
Helps with: boosting body’s immune system, preventing iron deficiency, and maintaining normal connective tissue.
Good source of: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, copper, manganese, chloline, vitamin B2, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, calcium.
Helps with: reducing risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers (in combination with other vitamins and dietary fibre).
Good source of: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, iron, magnesium, calcium.
2) Sleep pattern
While freelancers will often be taken on for long periods, during which they must rise early on a regular basis, there are times when this just isn’t the case. During these periods it is important to retain a normal sleeping pattern, and there is no shortage of research as to why this is so vital. Reduced stress, increased energy, better mood; these are all among the benefits which a regular sleeping pattern yields and, let’s face it, all of this promotes creativity.
I have recently happened upon a fascinating and new (to me) concept to do with sleep and the enhancement of memory/skills. As we sleep, aside from dreaming of riches beyond our wildest dreams, something else is going on in the humble human mind. Research has revealed that, while we sleep, the mind is playing host to a process known as consolidation, which aids both our memory and various skills we may already have. The basic gist of it is that during sleep our minds our honing specific skills which are particularly relevant to tasks or activities we have been doing. Of course nothing is conclusive but, for example, say you had just taken up tennis at the same time as a friend. After a few days of practice, there is a chance that, were you to get more uninterrupted sleep, you would be able to play better than your friend. This also applies to the skills needed to stoke the creative fires.
Creativity is fun, but no matter how fun something is, stresses can clog the mind, and nothing de-clutters like a good old exercise session. Football, swimming, tennis, netball; you name it, anyone who wants to clear the mind should be doing it. Research has shown that regular exercise increases serotonin levels (the lovely relaxing chemical floating around in the brain). With this said however, Alex Korb Ph.D., states that “interestingly, if you try to do too much exercise, or feel forced into doing it, it may not have the right effect” (for more on serotonin boosting click here).
A prolific authority on the subject of exercise, and particularly its effect on cognitive performance, is Justin Rhodes, associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to him “Part of the reason exercise enhances cognition has to do with blood flow. Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better”. Makes sense to me.
4) Have fun and relax
Sure it’s great to take note of all these ways in which you can improve your efficiency and clear your mind, but the most important thing is to (regularly) let your hair down. During relaxation times, do the things which make you happiest. It could be anything; do it guilt-free and tell your mind it can have this time completely off – free from worry. After all, you work hard.
We can’t talk about relaxation without talking about yoga. This wonderful world of stretchiness is the perfect combination of relaxation, fun, and exercise. With its focus on controlled breathing and meditation, the world is full of yoga enthusiasts who attest to its stress-relieving benefits.
5) Listen to music
We all love music. Jazz, classical, rock, blues, pop, rap; everyone has their thing, and it normally takes them to a happy place. Recent times have seen a fair bit of research on the therapeutic properties which music offers. Whether you are trying to beat your push-up record in the gym, or trying to string together five minutes of concentration to finish some work, music serves a great purpose.
It’s time (and this time comes in everyone’s life) to talk about brainwaves. There are four types of wave which pass through our lovely little brains, and music prompts one of the most relaxing types. More on that in a second; first to summarise these four waves:
Beta waves (14-20 hertz)
During the hours when we are awake/conscious beta waves are commonplace. These waves induce a state of alertness so as judgements can be made, problems solved, and the brain can remain alert.
Alpha waves (8-13 hertz)
Alpha waves are present when the mind is in a more relaxed state, and music is one of the things that can induce this state.
Theta waves (4-7 hertz)
Theta waves send the brain into its most creative mode creative, and are also common when someone is meditating or sleeping.
Delta waves (3-5 hertz)
If you’re asleep then the odds are that your brain is a playground for delta waves. These are the slowest brain waves and so a person is at their calmest when these waves are around.
Simply put, the slower the brain waves, the more relaxed the body and mind. It can’t get more relaxing than when we’re asleep, and as can be seen above that’s when delta waves rear their therapeutic head. During normal waking hours however, the brain is a playground for alpha, but mainly beta, waves.
In his book Accelerated Learning in Practice, Alistair Smith (1998) alludes to the ‘alpha state’ which “can be induced through the use of some pieces of music which have a beat of 60 to 70 beats per minute”. His book also discusses how certain types of music (Baroque to be precise) is used in language learning classes.
And when it comes to the music-creativity link, it’s just not just about waves. Every tried anchoring? Nope, me neither, but it’s a thing. Many articles and books talk about this process. So what’s the gist? Well, the word on the street when it comes to anchoring is that you can slsect your favourite and mokst relaxing type of music to work to while you are working/brainstorming/creating. Every time you return to a work activity like this, put the same music on, and in this way your mind will be reminded of the state it was in the last time this music was on; namely a relaxed one.
Finally, I think it is important to incorporate a bit of everything into your life, but to not stress out too much about it all. Let’s face it, if you’re doing/eating even a few of these things, you are winning, and certainly boosting your creativity.