Creativity is not an esoteric gift for the lucky few. Everybody possesses the ability to be creative in different ways. Essentially, creativity comes from your brain's ability to create a synthesis from disparate pieces of information; mentally gathering a bunch of different ingredients and coming up with a new dish.
Musicians rely on creativity, inventors build from creative epiphanies, entrepreneurs get an edge with a creative venture. Boosting your own brain power and creativity has the potential to enhance every aspect of your life.
Recent developments in neuroscience have created a buzz around the idea of neuroplasticity- the brain's ability to rewire itself and take on different skills at a rate much faster than previously understood. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, argues that the idea of inherent brilliance and natural talent need to be demythicised. Creative geniuses such as Einstein and the Beatles had success not due to a secret gift, but rather, due to the relentless daily engagements of their brain.
Here are 10 daily exercises to boost your brain's creative muscles. Each activity can be done in a short amount of time. Pick a different task for each day of the week:
1. Switch Hands.
Try brushing your teeth, writing, or throwing a ball with your less dominate hand. This causes your brain to go into a state of reassessment. As you try to navigate through an unfamiliar task, new neural networks are being formed.
2. Stretch Your Vocabulary.
Jump online or pull out your dictionary and work on adding one new word to your vocabulary each day. You can even go an extra step and try and use the word during a conversation with someone.
Read a piece of poetry each day and expand your literary muscles. Find a large poetic piece that you can read in small chunks each day. Be sure to switch through different forms and styles of poetry. Pay attention to the different rhyming schemes, patterns, cadence, and meter.
4. Adjective spill.
Pick any item within your view and describe it in ten different ways. Look for elements that you would not usually notice at first glance. This will train your mind to notice and dig for nuances in all other areas of life.
5. Devil's Advocate.
Argue with yourself. Taking different angles in reasoning will equip you with a more critical and creative mind. Next time you are working through a problem or gathering information for a presentation, you’ll be better in covering any gaps in your arguments, and you'll become a better researcher.
6. Change Routine.
Everyone is aware that exercise is great for boosting oxygen and blood flow to the brain. However, we forget how adaptable the brain is- once you repeat a routine enough times, your brain goes into autopilot and ceases to be stretched. Change up your training routines to keep your brain thinking and working. You can also change your driving route to work- just don't be late!
7. Da Vinci.
Silence that inner critic that is telling you that you cannot draw or paint. Let beauty (and brainpower) truly be in the eye of the beholder. Taking up some form of artistic endeavour has been shown to light up different parts of the brain in unison. Pick up that pencil and draw the mug in front of you or grab some canvas and paint from your local store.
8. Learn A Language.
You certainly don't need to become fluent in another language to reap the neural benefits of a new language. Studies have shown significant improvements in the brain's response to sound and attention span. Go down to your local used book store and grab a little phrase book; simply work on one phrase a day, you'll be considered exotic in no time.
9. The Cloud Exercise.
This will take you back to your childhood; it will also stretch your creative brain. Simply take a moment to look to the sky and name five things that five different clouds resemble. This will help your brain make connections between an abstract notion and something concrete.
Give your culinary skills a creative challenge and cook with something you have never cooked with before. Think of different ingredients and different flavours. You may even want to invite your friends over and have a cook-off for a little social and mental entertainment. Get your brain and palate working in unison.
Give these a try and let us know how you get on!