*This is the third and final article in the Cultivating Creativity series- How to Increase Creativity in the Brain: Your Subconscious. In Part 1, we discussed how to be more creative through your actions and Part 2 was about how to inspire creativity through your environment.
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We’ve already gone over how be more creative by:
- doing certain things and
- making some adjustments to your environment.
Now it’s time to discuss the third and (in my opinion) most fascinating strategy!
How to Increase Creativity in the Brain
Your subconscious mind is a powerhouse. It’s like a giant storage locker for your conscious mind.
Your subconscious helpfully stores your memories, thoughts, skills, beliefs, events – basically, everything that has ever happened to you.
Since there’s way too much information for you to focus on everything at once, it only brings information into focus at the direction of the conscious mind.
The subconscious obeys the conscious mind without question.
That’s why you can reprogram your subconscious mind by consciously repeating positive affirmations or reading inspirational quotes.
The subconscious mind is also one of the most valuable resources to inspire creativity and innovation.
By tapping into it, you can gain some deep insights into who you are and what you are struggling with.
When you harness the power of your subconscious mind, you will be able to make a conscious difference.
You will think more creatively and be more creative.
You may even find yourself realizing profound life lessons or coming up with creative solutions to your problems seemingly out of the blue!
So, where to begin?
With something we all do every day– sleep.
How Does Sleep Increase Creativity in the Brain?
There are times when we can be creative through conscious deliberation.
We think about a problem and eventually the answer becomes clear.
Other times, it’s not so simple.
If you can’t seem to come up with a creative solution after struggling with the same issue for some time, try a different approach.
Let it go.
Turn it over to your subconscious.
You might be surprised what the unfiltered part of your mind comes up with!
Surprisingly, the best way to fuel your mind and increase creativity in the brain is by doing something that requires minimal effort – sleeping.
What Your Brain Does During Sleep
We all need adequate sleep in order to function properly.
Although we are taking a break from conscious thought and activity, our brains are busy working while we sleep.
When we sleep, our bodies are able to perform so many important functions that they cannot complete while we are awake, including:
How Shuteye (or Lack Thereof) Affects Your Mind
There are many studies supporting the assertion that a good night’s sleep increases creativity in the brain.
According to a study by the University of California at Berkeley, sleep can help to bring about “aha” moments.
The study found that those waking from sleep are 33 percent more likely to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
In another study by Baylor University’s Sleep, Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, interior design students who slept more scored better on exams.
On the other hand, students who skimped on sleep or who slept erratically were less creative and had worse memory recall.
So, if you’re not getting enough sleep you are not providing your brain with the time it needs to process information and come up with creative solutions.
How much time do you need? The American Sleep Association recommends that most adults get at least 7 to 8 hours a night.
Tap into Your Brain Power While You Sleep to Increase Creativity in the Brain
We spend a third of our lives sleeping so we might as well get the most out of it!
There are things you can do to make sure you are squeezing all the value out of those precious hours of sleep – here are a few tips:
Do a Brain Dump
A lot of people (myself included) find it difficult to fall asleep at night because of all the thoughts they have swirling around in their head.
If you’re a ruminator, you might find yourself thinking about all the things you have to do, analyzing an interaction that happened earlier in the day, pondering the plight of the oppressed, or all of the above.
If this sounds like you, I actually have the perfect solution.
It’s called a brain dump.
Basically, you dump the contents of your brain onto paper – your to-do list, nagging thoughts, long-lost goals, upcoming appointments, burning questions, anything and everything that’s on your mind.
Once you have everything listed, you can then separate like items into categories. And from there, you can prioritize, plan and take action.
I do brain dumps regularly because it helps me to reduce stress and overwhelm.
And, according to neuroscientist and director of Baylor University’s Sleep, Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, Michael Scullin, writing this sort of to-do list before bed helps people fall asleep 30% faster than normal.
Take a load off and download these free printables from the Freebie Library
if you’d like to give the brain dump a try!
Wonder, Don’t Worry
Psychologist, creativity coach and author of The Magic of Sleep Thinking: How to Solve Problems, Reduce Stress, and Increase Creativity While You Sleep, (paid link) says that when we replace worry with wonder, we increase creativity in the brain.
So, instead of thinking, “I’ll never figure out the ending to my novel”, think “I wonder what Sam will say to Casey in the last chapter of my novel”.
Document Your Sleep Thoughts
Ever notice how your best thoughts come right before you fall asleep?
I often think up creative ideas or solutions when I’m just falling asleep– so much so that I now keep a notebook and pen by my bed so I can write things down when they come to me.
Turns out, there’s a scientific explanation for the “aha” moment.
Theta waves amplify creativity, boost intuition and improve mental performance.
But, we typically only produce theta waves when we are in either a flow state, a meditative state or hypnagogia (the period of drowsiness right before you fall asleep).
*Thomas Edison purposefully accessed the hypnagogic state by holding a steel ball in each of his hands before going to sleep. When he started to drift, he would drop the balls and wake himself up. He would then run to is desk write down the deep insights he had gleaned.
Get Creative Insights from Your Dreams
Keep a Dream Journal
We can increase creativity in the brain by documenting our dreams.
Most of us forget our dreams immediately upon waking up or shortly thereafter.
But, if you’re not studying your dreams, you’re missing out on some valuable creativity-boosting insights!
Keep a dream journal in a way that works for you – writing or voice recording are both great options.
Don’t worry if you can’t remember much at first.
Your recollection will improve. You will start to notice recurrent themes, images, settings and characters. You’ll gain perspective and see new opportunities.
These realizations will help you to understand the messages your subconscious is trying to send you.
Use It or Lose It: Apply Your Creative Ideas to Increase Creativity in the Brain
Finally, as the saying goes, use it or lose it.
Once you have tapped into your subconscious mind and increased creativity in your brain, put those ideas into action.
Here are some motivational quotes to inspire you to take action on your creative ideas:
“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.” –Andre Malraux
“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.” – Albert Einstein
“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” – Arnold H. Glasgow
“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been’.” - John Greenleaf Whittier
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky
*Source: The Secrets of Creativity: Find Your Inner Genius (2019). (paid link)
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Over to you ... which of these tips will you implement? What creative action will you take today?
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