Guest Post: How to Enhance Creativity

I’m trying out something different. Please let me know how you like the guest post below. I’m hoping that it is helpful to other writers out there. If so, I’ll try to post more guest posts like this. Thanks!

Transcending the Mundane: How to Enhance Creativity

The earliest cave paintings date back to approximately forty thousand years ago! Considering that Rome existed less than two millennia ago, this is quite a stretch of human history. The Cave of Altamira, located in Spain, is thought of as the Sistine Chapel of cave paintings by modern anthropologists because of its ornateness and implied intelligence, creativity, and resourcefulness. What spurred on and enabled this type of high-level creativity? The jury is still out for anthropologists but the demotic consensus appears to be swift and profound development of the neocortex, which is part of the brain’s cerebral cortex.The fascinating thing about this theory is that in many ways these early humans – the forebears of modern homo sapiens – have essentially the same brains as we do! The truth is that the same neocortical development that helped the early humans paint these ornate images at the Cave of Altamira can help modern humans be more creative in their day-to-day lives! Since the neocortex is associated with spatial reasoning, language, conscious thought and perhaps creativity, and since creativity and intelligence are highly linked, optimizing brain performance might be the ideal way to bolster creativity.Nootropics 
Synonymously known as smart drugs, nootropics are drugs or supplements thought to increase memory, intelligence, creativity, motivation, attention, sustained concentration. The deconstructed and translated term nootropics actually means “mind” and “to bend” in Greek. Nootropics achieve their brain enhancing effects usually by either increasing oxygen or nutrient supply to the brain or else by enhancing the available supply of neurochemicals in the brain. The tie-in to creativity is that many nootropics act as dopaminergics or dopamine bolstering agents (e.g., l-tyrosine or rhodiola rosea). This is crucial because subtle increases in available dopamine have been linked to mounds of creative output and expression!

Specialist or Generalist? 

Science has not only demonstrated that creativity and intelligence are related: another finding is that creative people differ from ordinary people in fairly predictable ways. For instance, creative people tend to have extraordinarily specialized knowledge coupled with divergent thinking (more on this later). On the former note, creative people normally have a specialized skill set or trunk of experiences by which to express their creativity. A musician, as an example, will tend to know a lot about music theory, which will bolster her future creativity because she will have more specialized knowledge to draw from.

Specialized Knowledge for the Win! 
To achieve specialized knowledge, and perhaps creativity by virtue of attaining more experiences and caches of information to draw upon, its important to utilize every available research tool in order to increase one’s knowledge base. This means using resources like the local library and the internet to fuel one’s understanding within a particular intellectual or creative domain.

Divergent Thinking 
When confronted with novel problems or situations humans tend to engage in either convergent or divergent thinking. The terms actually intuitively stand for what they mean – convergent (coming together) thinking means to form one response to a given problem whereas divergent (moving apart) thinking means to form many solutions to a single problem. Divergent thinking, as explicated by famed creativity researcher J.P. Guilford, is synonymous with “synthetic thinking” in that the subject employing divergent thinking will correlate or synthesize ideas from across time periods and disciplines in order to achieve a richer understanding of the world and one’s small niche within it.

Sleep on It!
There’s newfound scientific evidence that sleep helps in consolidating memories and forging novel connections on memories made throughout the previous day. In addition to this general finding scientists have shown that alterations in acetylcholine neuromodulation during REM sleep are partly responsible for spikes in novel associations and memory consolidation. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter implicated in studies of memory, intelligence, and creativity, therefore its maximization should be critical for enhancing creativity.

Memory Consolidation and Alcoholism 
Although this news may delight teetotalers and irritate those fond of drink, alcohol has actually been shown to inhibit REM sleep – and perhaps creativity – while adversely affecting the hippocampus. In some ways this repudiates the tortured artist image as it relates to creativity, but in more ways correlating lack of creativity to alcohol abuse is common sense. Alcohol abuse damages acetylcholine receptors, sleep, and the hippocampus, and presumably creativity. One key to enhancing creativity is avoiding stultifying agents like alcohol.

The term Broaden-And-Build actually refers to a neuroscientific strategy that entails increasing one’s positive emotions in order to increase one’s awareness, novel linkages (i.e., divergent thinking capacity), and experimental thoughts. This idea comes from a psychologist named Barbara Fredrickson. The basic notion behind Broaden-And-Build is that by increasing one’s positive emotions (e.g., joy), one increases motivation, exposure to new intellectual areas (broaden) and creativity (build).

This article has investigated ways in which regular people can increase their intelligence and creativity. By understanding the underlying mechanisms of creativity scientists can better recommend beneficial strategies for increasing creativity (e.g., cultivating specialized knowledge) while informing the lay public about detrimental activities that crimp the creative hose (e.g., shortchanging oneself on sleep).

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