Being able to think creatively can help you in a variety of situations, from coming up with new solutions to old problems to making up a bedtime story for your kids or even for researchers trying to solve a medical or other scientific mystery.
Some of the ideas you often hear to unleash your creative side are brainstorming, going for a walk to clear your mind, and listening to music. But I thought it’d be fun to outline some of the lesser known tools you can try to be more creative. They might surprise you!
Head to Starbucks
There’s a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that showed people who work in moderately noisy environments scored higher in creativity tests and were also judged as more creative by their peers who were present in the same environment. “Moderately noisy” was defined as about 70 decibels, which is about the noise level you will find at your local coffee shop.
You might think that this is because people are energized by the additional noise, but the study found it was actually because small doses of distraction make the mind work on a more abstract level, which is also a more creative level.
If you need to give your creative side a nudge, head to Starbucks or some other location with a similar noise level – maybe a park or a library?
Dust Off Your Xbox
A recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior suggested that kids who play video games tend to be more creative – even if those games are violent. The head researcher, Linda Jackson, studied 500 12-year-olds. Using the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, Jackson found that the more kids played, the more creative they became.
Maybe one explanation is that video games require you to make decisions and also create new ways to solve problems. So perhaps if you start gaming, the creative problem-solving you practice in your game will help you with creative problem-solving in real life. If it works for 12-year-olds, it just might work for you too!
There are so many benefits to meditating, and now it is even being credited with getting your creative juices flowing. A study by Lorenza Colzato at Leiden University and published just last month in Frontiers in Cognition, found certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking.
The study found that “Open Monitoring” meditation, where you are receptive to all the thoughts and sensations while meditating without focusing attention on any particular concept or object, helped promote divergent thinking, which is a style of thinking that allows new ideas to be generated.
If you don’t already practice meditation, you might try it as a means to unleash your creative side. To learn more about meditation and find out whether it’s something you might like, check out my article, “Meditation: Is It For Me?“
Belly Up To The Bar
There’s an interesting study from the University of Illinois and published in Consciousness and Cognition that indicates alcohol helps you boost creativity, specifically creative problem-solving. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, this doesn’t mean the more drunk you get, the more creative you will be – moderation is the key!
In the study, half of the subjects (all men) were given enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol level to .075%, which is just below the legal limit for driving in most states in the US. The other half did not consume any alcohol. What the researchers found is that the subjects who drank not only were more successful at solving creative problems, but they also did so faster than their sober counterparts.
According to the lead researcher, the reason for these results probably lies in the idea that moderate alcoholic intoxication probably loosens a person’s focus of attention, making it easier to find connections among remotely related ideas, and therefore easier to create innovative solutions. Cheers!
What methods do you use for creative problem-solving or to get creative ideas flowing? I’ve always found that brainstorming helps me tremendously, as does free-flow, stream-of-consciousness thought. What works for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on facebook at www.facebook.com/OneMoveForward.