Boosting creativity through passion, novelty and pleasure

I’ve just returned from Chicago, where I had the pleasure to present my program “Rewire Your Brain to Speak Your Mind: Neuroscience Insights for Conflict Management” at the Association of Conflict Resolution Chicago Area Chapter. It was wonderful to connect with other conflict resolution professionals and tap into our collective brain power for new ideas and approaches. Later, I got a chance to catch up with my Chicago friends and attend an amazing skating show – Ice Dreams 2011.

While the swirl of events from this weekend in Chicago is still fresh in my mind, I am going to anchor my breath-taking and brain-captivating experiences with words as I reflect on how passion, novelty, and pleasure can help us become better solution-finders:

1.   Remember to nurture and pursue your life’s passions. Passions have the ability to dissolve fear, doubt, and hesitation. They can give you the voice to speak your truth. And it doesn’t really matter what your passions are as long as they help you embrace your own identity and live your life more fully. Passions can disrupt the perpetual circles of victimhood, blame, and excuses by shifting attention to more pleasant experiences.  According to neuro-psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, the author of “Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive,” positive emotions make us more creative and resourceful. They open the mind to new possibilities and new ways of dealing with old problems. So, get connected to your passions.

2.  Expand your synaptic connections through new places, people, and experiences. It will help you keep your brain plastic and able to build new pathways that can translate into new behaviors and new thinking patterns. Exposure to varying cultural experiences and views increases the pool of ideas to draw from and makes people more acceptable of differing opinions. Novelty tends to attract attention and boost cognitive energy. The brain is wired to make sense of the outside world so that we can feel more comfortable in it. Novel information puzzles the brain as it tries figure out how this new piece of information fits into our worldview. The brain is motivated by curiosity and the search for patterns. That’s how we learn. When the brain is busy searching for patterns and making predictions, it produces more neuromodulator dopamine, which is responsible for more pleasurable experience. You can stretch your brain and build up your transformational capacity by introducing small changes to your routine through travel, new activities, and new friends.

3.  Nourish your senses and savor your positive emotions. What you feed to your senses has a profound effect on how you perceive the world and make decisions. A recent study, for example, reveals that people stereotype more in disorderly areas than in the clean ones. According to another study, the mere presence of plants in an office setting boosts one’s ability to maintain attention. Beautiful and luxurious experiences create a perfect neurococktail to envelope your brain in a pleasant, dopamine-induced buzz.  The feeling of awe is transformative.

Positive psychologists have discovered that one way to increase our well-being is to savor our life experiences. Savoring is a form of mindfulness.  According to Fred Bryant, the author of “Savoring,” we can anticipate future events, appreciate the present, or reminisce positively about the past. All three forms of savoring are helpful in producing positive emotions.

Rich sensory experiences that appeal to your eyes, ears, your senses of smell and touch make savoring easy. Find what makes your senses happy and indulge. But remember that people tend to compensate for distress by overindulging. Our willpower and self-control diminish when we are in a bad mood, while our search for pleasure and comfort increases. So, it is better to schedule your harmless infusions of beauty and luxury periodically to cultivate a positive outlook in the long run.

On this note, I am off to reconnect with my positive emotions as I savor the memories of the past weekend, new professional connections, good times with friends, and the immersive experience of dancing lights and music, combined with the mastery, speed, and power of the blades.

By | 2011-05-03T23:32:48+00:00 May 3rd, 2011|Books, Brain, Creativity, Perception|3 Comments

How The Grumpy Gremlin, The Inner Critic and The Mad Monkey Stole the Creative Seed of Discourse

CreativityOnce upon a time, Discourse possessed a creative seed that in the right conditions had the power to germinate into better understanding among people and offer new solutions to their problems.  The wise and the elderly knew how to take care of the creative seed and help it sprout into a peaceful growth until one day a stranger showed up at Discourse’s door.

“What’s your name?” Discourse asked.

“I am The Grumpy Gremlin,” replied the stranger. “You, Discourse, can’t even imagine all the threats and dangers that are lurking out there.  Hidden in the dark, nagging worries, stewing self-sabotage, debilitating doubt, and paralyzing fear wait for the right moment to pounce and send chills down your spine.  And slimy worms are about to eat your creative seed. “

Discourse looked around in horror.  “What  can I do?’  “Can you help me?”

“All right,”  said The Grumpy Gremlin.  “I will protect you against threats and dangers out there, but you have to give me something in return.”

“What can I give you?” asked Discourse.

“Your good mood,” The Grumpy Gremlin replied.

Discourse thought the Grumpy Gremlin’s request was strange.  What’s the value of the good mood, anyways?   And he accepted the offer.

As days passed, Discourse grew sad and blue as he became aware of every possible threat out there.  This realization even gave him indigestion.  One evening, Discourse was sitting by the fire when he noticed a shadow darting across the wall of his house.  Spooked,  Discourse jumped around and saw a strange creature creeping across the room.  “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” Discourse yelled.

“So sorry to bother you, Discourse.  I am your Inner Critic.  I was always here, but you were too happy to pay any attention to me.”

Discourse listened in disbelief as The Inner Critic’s voice grew louder and louder.

“Just look at yourself, Discourse.  You turned into a laughing stock.  You are just fuming and fuming, but you have nothing useful to say.  What will people think of you?”

“What should I do?” asked Discourse meekly.

“Here is what you do,”  The Inner Critic replied angrily.  “You listen to me carefully.  I will protect you against the harsh judgment and the ridicule of your neighbors.  But you have to promise me something in return.”

“What is it,” asked Discourse, embarrassed and upset with himself.

“Promise me that you will always carry your creative seed in a tightly closed sack and you will never venture into unknown territory.”

“But if I always keep the creative seed in a closed sack, how will it grow without the sunlight?” protested Discourse.

But The Inner Critic just hissed, “What do you know?”

So, Discourse reluctantly agreed to The Inner Critic’s offer.

Discourse kept the promise.  He carried his creative seed in a tightly closed sack as he walked along the beaten path.  One day, during his usual walk, a monkey jumped from a tree and grabbed the sack with the creative seed.  Discourse was too absorbed by his own sad thoughts to notice The Mad Monkey sooner.  He tried to catch her but she ran into the forest and just kept jumping from tree to tree.  Discourse chased The Mad Monkey for a full hour but had to stop because he got tired of running in circles.

And that is how Discourse lost his creative seed, tricked by The Grumpy Gremlin, The Inner Critic, and The Mad Monkey into giving away his good mood, courage, curiosity, and a peaceful, open mind.

By | 2011-05-03T23:21:31+00:00 April 2nd, 2011|Change, Communication, Creativity|0 Comments