by Deidre Dykes/gowordbird
Why do we always get our best ideas in the shower? Or on the train? Or just before falling asleep?
It’s one of nature’s cruel jokes on us, but I think it’s pretty clear that the brain is more creative when it’s able to loosen up a little. Neuroscientists tell us that there are three things that get us to a flow of creative ideas: increased dopamine levels, distraction, and being in a relaxed state.
Brains are most likely to yield good stuff when they’re happy, too. That means dopamine is being released, much like it would be when we’re exercising, having sex, listening to music, or taking a shower. Neurologist Alice Faherty argues that some people are built to be more creative than others because of the way our brains are wired. So remember: a happy brain makes for a happy writer.
Freeing up the subconscious from its usual tasks of problem-solving and keeping us from walking into walls gives it the opportunity to dig deep and find creative seeds it’s been burying all day. Something as simple as getting into the shower after a day at the office can trigger a big change in the way our brains work. With this “incubation period” for ideas in full swing, tiny idea seeds can start to take root in the conscious mind.
When our brains are rocking out on alpha waves (when the brain is – or is in a state close to – sleeping) we get a chance to focus internally instead of on the world around us. It’s not just sleep that can bring on this state of deep relaxation – soothing, familiar, repetitive tasks help us achieve this sort of mental quiet. With the phone off and the responsibilities of the day finally out of reach, we are able to better cultivate the creative ideas that have been trying to grow just below the surface.
The keys to helping those creative juices flow are doing something that makes us feel good (dopamine), being distracted from the everyday (distraction/incubation), and being relaxed while doing something familiar or nothing at all (alpha waves). Whether that yields the next Great American Novel or not is no sure thing but let’s be honest here – at the worst, you’ll have just had a relaxing afternoon.
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