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Science Reveals The Best Time To Do Amazingly Creative Work

Science Reveals The Best Time To Do Amazingly Creative Work

If you regularly put time and effort into becoming more creative, this post is for you. If your boss or supervisor has commented that they’d love for you to work on your creative skills, this post is even more for you. If you’re an artist, musician, writer, filmmaker, poet, or any other kind of self-identified creative individual, this post is most definitely for you.

We love learning how to be more creative. Creativity remains one of the most highly valued assets in the workplace. Companies are pushing recruiters and HR staff harder than ever to find candidates who can think differently. Businesses want problems solved more efficiently and more quickly, and creative thinking is arguably the most effective way to conquer problems.

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Despite all this, how does creativity as a skill (and the fostering of it) remain so utterly elusive? At least, that’s what it seems like. If you were born and raised in a developed country, chances are you were educated through more traditional models. That is to say, standardized testing and rigid classroom structures were more often the rule, not the exception.

Creative Thought Increases Value Everywhere

It’s no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes and majors are prioritized and glamorized over others. These jobs almost unequivocally pay more than jobs relating to arts and literature, history, education, and psychology. Even healthcare jobs don’t always compete salary-wise with STEM-related jobs.

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Now, I’m not saying careers involving STEM proficiencies are bad. I’m simply illustrating that career paths not traditionally associated with “creative” or “artsy” thinking even value the leverage of creativity, when all is said and done.

At the end of the day, creativity seems to win universal acclaim. So, let’s cut to the chase and learn when you’re most apt to produce your most creative work. Are all the myths about creativity true?

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The Secret To Optimal Creativity

Believe it or not, doing your best creative thinking is most likely to happen when you’re tired. I know, I know; this information pretty much flies in the face of conventional wisdom, especially in regards to hard work. Most people recommend getting up early in the day, getting to your workspace, making sure your desk is well-lit, and hammering away at your craft. These are fantastic recommendations for productivity, but it turns out they aren’t exactly ideal for optimal creativity.

Researchers Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks conducted a study in which they first determined the peak cognition times of their subjects. The research subjects were given a simple test that determined whether they considered themselves “morning” people or “evening” people. This test provided information on when an individual’s cognition and focus are clearest. This was later referred to in the research as one’s “peak time.” An “off-peak time” was, naturally, the opposite time at which someone’s intellectual function was most driven.

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Zacks and Wieth found when we’re at our peak time, our brains are able to more efficiently filter out distractions and get work done. As the day draws near an end (or more appropriately, as we reach our off-peak time), our brains are not able to operate as efficiently, and we become more susceptible to a broader range of information. This component — the default openness to more bits of information and varying interpretations — is what actually drives optimal creativity.

This unconventional but potent realization can come as mild bad news and good news. It may be bad news because you might have to adapt your workflow to optimize your creativity; the good news is that powering up your creative work just became a lot simpler to harness.

Now that you understand when your best creative work can be done, what are a few ways to utilize this wisdom? Check out my recommendations below:

  • Carry a pen and notepad with you at all times. I know this can sound super cliché because everyone recommends it, but that’s because it works. Don’t rely on your brain to remember every nugget, tidbit, and idea you create or encounter; it won’t happen. Write down everything that intrigues you so you can refer back to it later. Even better is to keep a separate notebook by your bed.
  • Reserve a few nights/mornings out of the week to have nothing going on. Just allow yourself to be free of obligations and have the chance to write down new ideas, patterns, and possibilities. Assign these moments in your schedule based on your peak time.
  • Maintain a relatively full schedule. When you have a lot going on, you’re more likely to get tired sooner. And, as we now know, being tired facilitates creativity. The sooner you get tired, the sooner and more likely you are to have some cool ideas coming your way. Not having a decently full schedule can be somewhat of a hindrance to creative thought.

Featured photo credit: Bench Accounting via unsplash.com

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Brad Johnson

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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