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Why Your Creative Mind Works The Best In The Cafe

Why Your Creative Mind Works The Best In The Cafe

Getting away from the house, office or regular workspace has an amazing effect on the creative mind. But even for those with the freedom to work from anywhere, creativity soars highest in a particular place- cafes and coffee shops.

Historically, some of the greats artists, writers and musicians frequented cafes to ponder on great ideas and cultivate their creative energy. Now they’ve become a hotbed for modern creatives such as entrepreneurs, graphic designers and even DJ s. Yet most of us are still not completely sure exactly why we gravitate towards our favorite cafes.

Some say it’s the whiff of freshly brewed coffee and getting a caffeine fix that fires up creative juices. While others claim there’s something unique about the atmosphere, an ambiance that compliments the creative mind. In actual fact, science has found some interesting links between creativity and cafes, some of which may surprise you!

In actual fact, science has drawn some interesting links between cafes and creativity, some of which may surprise you!

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Silence Sharpens Focus – Ambient Noise Boosts Creativity

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    You may already be aware that working in silence environments helps you focus. When you are in the midst of complicated problem solving or performing fine detailed work, one annoying noise is enough to break our concentration.

    However, when it comes to creative thinking, ambient noise has been seen to improve creativity. Specifically, typical coffee shop ambient noise of 70 decibels was seen to be optimum. Whereas quieter than 50dB and louder than 85dB caused creativity to drop off.

    It’s believed this level of moderate ambient noise is just enough to distract us, allowing us to think outside the box. This helps to broaden to thinking and lends itself to the discovery of new ideas. So, the creative magic in the air of your favorite coffee shop is actually the perfect ambient hum for your creative mind.

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    You should optimize your creativity by choosing your coffee shop wisely, based on how busy or noisy it is. If you are tied to a workspace and it’s particularly quiet, try listening to Creativity background music from Youtube. Otherwise, there’s an ingenious application that can mimic the cafe’s ambient noise called Coffitivity.

    Dynamic Environments Stimulate Creativity

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      Ever noticed how creativity dries up if you remain in the same environment or routine for too long? It’s only when you break the cycle or change your environment that the bolt of creativity strikes.

      The mind is naturally inclined to tune out repeat input, while remaining receptive to new information. So, by moving from a static environment to a dynamic one, you flood the mind with new inputs and stimulate creativity. Visiting a cafe is great for firing up inspiration as you watch new faces and interactions happening around you.

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      Low-level distractions from the bustle of others actually help fuel creative thoughts. Whereas the silence and solitude of home or the office often push us to non-creative procrastination. Cafes strike just the right balance of simulation buzz with the protection of anonymity, interactions are on your own terms.

      There’s also a social element that plays a significant role. If you’re open, cafes are a great place to meet and interact with new people. These brief exchanges of ideas, experiences and perspectives ignite creativity.

      Your positioning is somewhat crucial, whether in the cafe or your own workspace. The last thing you want to do is position yourself right in a high traffic point, so don’t sit by the cash register or a door. You want the opportunity to observe or interact, but it has to be on your own terms.

      Dim Lighting Liberates the Mind and Imagination

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        Yet again, absolute focus and free-flowing creativity are set at odds. Brighter lighting favors focus-based tasks but research has shown dimmer lighting actually boosts creativity.

        The most curious thing is, creatively was seen to increase across six separate studies, even without conscious recognition of this change. So it’s believed dimmer environments make us feel freer to explore and take risks without judgment. It’s so powerful that even recalling an experience of darkness can have similar creativity boosting effects.

        So, if your creative workspace is bright, dimming the lights to create a more ambient environment would be very beneficial. You could use light blinds on the windows and shaded lamps for softer lighting. Or if you are visiting a coffee shop, pick the deepest, darkest corner for creative pondering!

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        Last Updated on July 17, 2019

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        What happens in our heads when we set goals?

        Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

        Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

        According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

        Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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        Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

        Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

        The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

        Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

        So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

        Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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        One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

        Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

        Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

        The Neurology of Ownership

        Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

        In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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        But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

        This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

        Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

        The Upshot for Goal-Setters

        So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

        On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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        It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

        On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

        But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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        Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

        Reference

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