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Why The More Often You Expose Yourself To The Unfamiliar, The More Your Brain Will Grow

Why The More Often You Expose Yourself To The Unfamiliar, The More Your Brain Will Grow

A new day starts and your brain is like a fully-charged battery- fully active- but as the day proceeds you become overloaded and drained because of streams of information. The world can be overstimulating with ongoing tweets, Facebook flashes, emails, radio, television, and attention-grabbing billboards. By the time the clock says that it’s time to go home you shuffle along like a zombie.

With this daily information influx, how can you develop and expand your ability to learn?

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Step out of the world through meditation.

Release your mind and let it wander away from task-related thoughts. By “letting go” you boost the capacity of your brain to retain information and to perform at a higher level. Breaking out of your regular routine and rigid structure inspires creativity and allows the brain to recharge.

“Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace.”- Lao Tse

Stress and tension from excess mental activity are released by meditating. Relaxing the mind and body is crucial to reaching a thoughtless state and for relaxation. Meditation decreases the overload of “noise” in the brain which has been shown to improve memory and scores on intelligence tests. It has many positive effects on memory such as regulating alpha rhythm brain wave[1] – crucial to reducing the volume of distracting information. According to research studies on mindful meditation, brain cells use waves or frequencies to regulate the flow of information like radio stations that broadcast at particular frequencies. The alpha rhythm is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight, and sound in the brain’s outermost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.

By allowing yourself to become fully immersed during meditation, the brain makes deeper connections and the ability to recall information is enhanced. Silence, or the sounds of nature, relax the mind. Watch your thoughts drift away and breathe away the tension.

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Get distracted!

There are times when you need good concentration. Those may just be the right times to take a drive or get away to the nearest coffee hangout. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, a slight level of distraction can sometimes be the perfect formula for creativity and heightened focus according to a study in a consumer research journal.  Humans are social creatures. Being in the vicinity of others (on the road or in a coffee shop) can be psychologically reassuring enough to allow better concentration than being solitary.

Advances in neuroscience have good news for all music lovers. Music activates every part of the brain.[2] Music is a universal healing tune that can uplift your mood,[3] motivate you, and even help you to concentrate.[4]

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Take on a challenge!

Get out your surfboard and take on the waves or go bungie jumping. If you are not ready for an adventure of that sort, there are other relatively simple challenges that can be done from the comfort of your couch. Challenging your brain can be as simple as thinking of names of famous people that begin with the same letter. Even a crossword puzzle or board game stimulates the brain. Research indicates that unlike being glued to a television set, surfing the web activates complex reasoning and decision making. While watching television is passive, the virtual world is interactive and boosts brain power.

Confirm that booking! Venture forth.

Boosting brain power comes from new experiences. Examples include learning a foreign language, learning how to play a music instrument, participating in community activities, and traveling. With the memories of unforgettable experiences, the benefits of travel endure.

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Neuroscience Professor Huganir described the brain as a circuit board where new experiences create brand new circuits.[5] Emotional peaks with electro-chemical connections causing heightened emotional states can facilitate memory and learning, so turn up those emotions as you step out of your rut and into the unfamiliar.

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Nena Tenacity

Nena is passionate about writing. She shares her everyday health and lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

Here Are 30+ Easy High Fibre Breakfast Ideas You Can Try At Home A Wholesome Diet Is What You Need to Gain Happiness: 30 Natural Low-Carb Foods 10 Best Healthy Snacks That Even Gym People Eat When They’re Hungry! Want A Quick Yet Healthy Breakfast? Avocado Toast Is Your New Breakfast Idea Want To Look Younger And Be Healthier? Acai Berry Is Your New Breakfast Idea!

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Published on October 5, 2020

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

I think we’re all familiar with that feeling of needing to solve a problem, trying way too hard, getting frustrated, and then throwing our hands up in defeat. For example, when my editor assigned me this topic, the structure and concept of the piece weren’t instantly clear to me. I had to problem-solve to figure out how to even begin. But problem-solving isn’t quite so linear. It’s not just a matter of brute force. You can’t just muscle your way through. This is where creative problem solving comes in.

Creative problem solving is about using what we know about how the brain works to come up with outside-the-box solutions to creative problems. Sure, we can do things the same way we’ve always done them. Or we can try creative problem solving, which means we spend time ideating (a.k.a. brainstorming), collaborating, ruminating, and refining to land on better and more novel solutions than we could have if we tried to force or rush a solution.

Stages of Creative Problem Solving

There’s no right or wrong way to try creative problem solving, but there are some stages that can help you integrate it into your creative process. Here are the 4 stages of creative problem solving

1. Ideating/Brainstorming

If we’re using creative problem solving, we’re not just going with the first idea that pops into our heads. Brainstorming is crucial to come up with more novel solutions.

One of the most important things to keep in mind during brainstorming is that this is not the time to evaluate or judge ideas. The goal of ideating is to come up with as many ideas as possible.

There’s an improvisation rule called “Yes, And” or the rule of agreement that can help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.[1] The idea is simple. If you’re brainstorming in a group and someone tells you an idea, you need to go along with that idea. That’s the “Yes” part of “Yes, And.” Then, you can take it a step further by trying to add to that person’s idea.

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Let’s say you and your team are trying to figure out how to rebrand your shoe company. Your colleague says you could use a mascot. If you’re using improv’s “Yes, And” rule, you might agree and say that the mascot could be a shoe or a sock or a lonely sock looking for a shoe.

During the ideation stage, no one should be worried about which ideas are good and which are bad. Everyone is trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, and everyone should be trying to make the most of everyone else’s ideas.

“Yes, And” can also work if you’re creative problem solving alone. Instead of discarding ideas, you should be saying yes to your ideas, writing them all down, and trying to make all of them as workable as possible. But before you get too far in your creative process, it’s important to run your ideas by someone else.

2. Collaboration

I know sometimes you don’t want to share your ideas with other people. Maybe you’re self-conscious or you just don’t think that your idea is ready for prime time. However, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and let other people join your creative process if you want to reach the best possible creative solution.

When we’re working in a team, it’s important to not judge each other’s ideas until we’re safely in the final stage of the creative problem-solving process. That means no critiques, no evaluations, and no snarky comments. Not yet, at least.

The reason to hold off on evaluating ideas at this stage is that some people tend to shut down if their ideas are judged too early. There’s a concept called creative suppression that occurs when people stop a creative pursuit temporarily due to feeling judged, shamed, or embarrassed.[2] Even worse, creative mortification is when judgment, shame, or embarrassment makes you quit your creative pursuit altogether.

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When you’re collaborating with others while creative problem solving, you don’t want to shut anyone down. The more people who are actively engaged in the creative process the better.

In improv, there’s something called “group mind.” The basic idea is that a group can come up with a better solution than any single individual. It makes sense since each person in the group enters the creative process with their own strengths, knowledge, background, experience, and ideas. That means that when the group is working harmoniously, the best contributions of each individual will be reflected in the team’s solution, making that solution far better than what any individual could have come up on their own.

So, find someone you trust and lay the ground rules for your collaboration. Tell each other that you won’t be judging each other’s work just yet to bring out the best and make it as creative and effective as possible.

3. Pause

It can seem counterintuitive to pause during the creative process. But to tap into the creative unconscious parts of your brain, you need to stop forcing it and let your mind wander.

The part of your brain that you’re using to understand this article right now is not necessarily the part that’s going to come up with the most novel solution to your problem. To start using your creative unconscious brain, you need to take a break.

Have you ever had that experience of struggling with a problem and then effortlessly figuring it out while you were showering or walking the dog? That’s your unconscious brain doing the heavy lifting.

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This part of the brain can’t be forced into creative problem solving, so stop consciously obsessing about your problem for a while. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Let your mind wander. Dream. This gives your unconscious mind a chance to sort information and come up with some truly novel solutions.

The bonus to letting your unconscious take over is that it’s effortless. Conscious thought requires you to burn lots of energy, while unconscious doesn’t. So, stop trying so hard and let ideas come to you.

4. Refine

At some point, you’re going to have to start evaluating, eliminating, and refining your ideas to get to the best solution. But if you’ve brainstormed, collaborated, and ruminated enough, you should have plenty of material to work with.

An Example of Creative Problem Solving

I think it’s helpful to walk through an example of creative problem-solving in action. Let’s go back to the example of me writing this article.

First, I was presented with the problem, so I started brainstorming and “Yes, And”-ing myself. I thought about everything I already know about creative problem solving and did some preliminary research, but I still didn’t have a structure or theme to tie my ideas together.

Once the problem was marinating in my mind, I started talking to people. I talked to an old friend about my initial ideas about the article, but I still didn’t have any words on the page just yet.

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Then, one morning, the article seemed to come fully formed while I was showering. I could see which examples would work best and how to structure the article. So, I sat down to write and refine the ideas. During the refining stage, I swung back to the collaboration stage when my editor further refined and improved my ideas.

It’s important to remember that these four stages of creative problem solving aren’t linear. They’re circular. After I refine an idea, I can go back to brainstorming, collaborating, and pausing as needed to develop and improve that idea.

Bottom Line

Creative problem solving is, first and foremost, creative. You have to give yourself time and space to be able to reflect and ruminate. It’s also important to collaborate as necessary to improve your ideas with the help of other people.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t force creative problem-solving. Forcing it only leads to frustration and failure, so give yourself some time and a team you trust to come up with the best possible solution to your problem.

More About Creative Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Per Lööv via unsplash.com

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