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Published on November 25, 2019

How to Train Your Brain to Be Creative

How to Train Your Brain to Be Creative

Have you ever looked down on yourself or even think you can never achieve anything significant in life? This belittling thought pattern will prevent you from attaining peak performance and becoming productive in life and your relationships. It will also hinder you from being opened to greater possibilities that can change your life.

This is the more reason you need to learn how to be creative.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is the ability or tendency to recognize and curate ideas, possibilities, alternatives that are crucial to solving issues, connect others, and entertain one another.

When we talk about creativity, some names readily come to mind.

It’s interesting to know that most of these creative people from Beethoven to Steve Jobs are ordinary people who exceptionally perform ordinary things. Therefore, it will not be an understatement to add your name to the list if you think you are creative.

You may disqualify yourself because you have not created anything new. This has been found out to be a great misconception when discussing how creativity works. Creativity is not only about inventing something new. There is nothing ever new or original. Every genius that has ever worked the face of the earth has only learned how to connect ideas and things to generate meaningful value.

Why Is Creativity Important?

People aspire to learn how to be creative for the following reasons:

The Need to Impact Meaningful Values

We are here to change the world. If you want to make a significant difference in life, there is a likely chance you are tapping the innate creative ability on your inside.

The Need to Address Problems

The world will become short of creative people once we stop having issues that threaten our existence like global warming.

Is there darkness in the world? A genius will invent light. Is the light not eco-friendly? Another creative person will design how to leverage solar power to light up the world, and the chain becomes endless.

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The Need for Complex, Varied and Novel Stimulation

If you hate the status quo like me, there is a chance you will end up with an innovative idea. Creative individuals learn how to look at life from other perspectives. They don’t go with the flow. They test a series of alternatives that can contribute meaningful value to life.

10 Creative Thinking Methods

So how can you be creative on demand? Here’re 10 thinking methods you should know:

1. Creative Problem Solving

This is a means of addressing issues or identifying opportunities when conventional thought processes have failed to yield results. The method encourages you to discover fresh perspectives and devise innovative ideas or solutions to surmount a daunting challenge.

2. Brainstorming

This technique is deployed to tackle a design problem. It usually comprises a group that is guided by a facilitator. The capability of each session is inherent in the ability of the participants to draw a connection between their novel ideas in the outside world.

Alex Osborn, the inventor of brainstorming in his book, Applied Imagination written in 1953, affirmed that,

“We aim squarely at a particular design problem and generate an arsenal of possible solutions. By not just harvesting our ideas but putting into consideration our colleagues’ concept, we cover the issue from all angles imaginable.”

3. Charette

It is a thorough planning session that connects designers, citizens, and other polymaths to collaborate on a developmental cause. It offers an opportunity for sharing ideas and provides a rare privilege of communicating feedbacks instantly to the designers. It facilitates inclusion and makes everyone a mutual author of the development.

4. Critical Thinking

This is an objective analysis of facts to generate a conclusion. It is self-disciplined, self-directed, self-corrective thinking and self-guided. It incorporates problem-solving abilities, practical communication skills, and the tenacity to surmount your native sociocentrism (a tendency of viewing the world from your cultural or social perspective) and egocentrism( failure to differentiate yourself from others).

You can take a look at my other article to learn more: How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills and Think Clearer

5. Interactive Planning

Russell L. Ackoff defined it as establishing a future by creating a desirable present. Interacting Planning or IAP is a technique employed by project managers to engage relevant stakeholders, as well as subject matter experts.

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The engagement process includes a collective discussion of the project plan and the strategy to design a dependable, holistic, and an active project schedule. It is often called Participative Planning(PP).

A notable benefit of this method is it helps everyone to understand the project scope and design a realistic schedule. It is also a conduit pipe for effective communication to flow. It is relevant in identifying critical milestones, constraints, and assumptions.

6. Force-Field Analysis

This analysis pinpoints the competing forces that surround an issue and employs brainstorming to discover the solutions. It was invented in the 1940s by Kurt Lewin. He initially utilized the technique in his project as a social psychologist. However, it has found relevance in the business environment. It is useful in establishing, sharing go, or no-go decisions.

The concept of this technique is that circumstances are established via a balance between forces that drive disruption or change and the ones that resist it. The driving actors must be empowered to cause change, or the negating forces must be weakened. [1]

7. K-J Method

It is a technique that derived its name from its inventor, Jiro Kawakita. It is a facilitated session where participants highlight their priorities on a card, collate them collectively, and arrange them by relationship via individual voting.

The objective of the method is to arrive at a consensus of valid information, especially in a group where individuals are bound to disagree.

Here I’ll just briefly describe how to implement it:[2]

  1. Gather five or more individuals together in a conducive room for 90 minutes. Give them markers and sticky notes.
  2. Establish a focused question that bothers on the project’s requirement and assign a facilitator to oversee the exercise
  3. Allocate 5 minutes for writing three answers to the items on the notes.
  4. Allocate 15 minutes to participants to stick their answers on the board, read others’ responses, and add to it. Guide them to cluster similar solutions without discussing them.
  5. Request participants to label each cluster individually. Make this mandatory. They can also segregate clusters.
  6. Put each name on the board cluster-by-cluster. Isolate duplicate words.
  7. Combine duplicate responses as long as the group agrees they are similar.
  8. Three or four teams will typically rank higher compared to others-those responses are relevant for the question.

8. Lateral Thinking

This technique is all about looking at a concept from different angles. It is a deliberate and systematic process.

Check out the article Think Laterally to learn more.

10. Play to Innovate Method

Individuals and teams unlock their innate potentialities by going through a fascinating, play-like technique. This method harnesses the creative power of the brain using playfulness.

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Several people believe we work to sustain a living outside of work. We go through work and life without locating a means of staying happy. Play to innovate methods changes the ball game. It asks, ” What if we adjust the work culture and provide reasons for people to work without monetary incentives. This hack examines making work playful while enjoying the benefits of creativity and innovation. [3]

10. SWOT Analysis

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. You can find out more about this in How SWOT Analysis Turns Risks Into Opportunities.

How To Be More Creative If You’re Not Naturally Creative

Besides the above thinking methods, start trying the following ways to be more creative:

1. Distinguish Between Problem-Solving and Ruminating

It is helpful to think about approaches that will aid you in surmounting a challenge, but it is less productive to picture yourself unable to accommodate the pain. Anytime you are deliberating on a matter, take time out to see if you are problem-solving, or just ruminating.

If the former, sustain the process. But if you are thinking about things you cannot control or that have occurred, it is a mere waste of time. Declutter your mind and allow your brain to focus on meaningful and productive activities.

2. Implement the Same Advice You Will Give a Confidant.

A lot of people find it easy to criticize themselves. Do you know that magnifying your weak points will only limit and drag you down?

Research has linked self-compassion to emotional well-being. The NCBI research indicated that self-compassion affects every dimension of well-being. It enhances your self-esteem and activates your can-do spirit. [4]

Therefore, speak to yourself as you would talk to a friend.

3. Name-Tag Your Emotion

Most people, especially men, rarely talk about their feelings. Thus, a lot of people have created a gap between themselves and their feelings. This will only make it difficult for you to detect how you feel at any point in time.

Most times, when you name-tag your feelings as adults, you do so using an indirect approach. You say something like, “I have butterflies in my stomach,” when you are nervous.

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It is not a sin to acknowledge your feeling. Give those emotions names and identify how they can impact your decisions.

Spend time each day to perform emotional acknowledgment exercise. If something bothers you, note it down instead of transferring aggression (the consequence of not taking charge of your emotion) on others.

4. Balance Your Feelings with Logic

Peradventure you are battling with a chronic disease or facing a difficult financial situation, you will make informed decisions when you can establish an equilibrium between your emotion and logic. Allow the rational part of you to lead when your emotion is attaining its peak.

Another approach to step down your emotions is to identify the consequences of your actions. Perusing the list will enable you to minimize the influence of your emotions on your decision.

5. Practice Gratitude

Research has found out that gratitude-oriented people exhibit increased wellness. A deliberate focus on the good side of life will produce interpersonal and emotional benefits, including happiness. [5]

Negative people can never be creative. Make a habit of listing what you are grateful for- the morning breakfast, the sunny weather, the green pasture, and many more. Practice journaling before retiring to bed. Allow your brain to reflect on the right things happening within and around you. Focusing on the sunny aspect of life will impact your wellness.

Get more inspirations with these 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For.

6. Develop a Healthy Mentality

If you desire to attain a peak in life, educate your brain now and then. You need to train your brain for success by speaking positive and meaningful words.

Bonus: Crack Your Cocoon!

According to Bill Stainton, isolating ourselves from weird people, or what he called ‘staying inside our cocoon’ robs us of creative ideas that possess the highest capability to address our biggest challenges. It is by cracking your cocoon or embracing individuals and weird experiences that you will discover the link that leads to breakthrough ideas. [6]

Bottom Line

Creativity is a seed of greatness. You can become great and significant only if you take the responsibility to train your brain for breakthrough ideas.

There are many techniques to adapt to nurture your innate creativity to fruition. Find what works for you, and do not forget to crack your cocoon! Creativity can rub on you when you associate with creative people.

More to Boost Your Creativity

Featured photo credit: Jessica Lewis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

So, how do we remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

I’m going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

1. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet.[2]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

2. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory.[3]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

3. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password).[4]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance.[5]

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Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance.[6]

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games.[7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

Try these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

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6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline.[8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests.[9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories.[10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story.

In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date.[11]

Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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