Where do fresh insights come from? Why is it that you get your best ideas in the shower or outside the normal work environment? New or novel stimulus is what scientists say wake up your system. Why? Apparently your brain always looks for shortcuts to process information, or in other words categorizes information into the familiar. The best way to wake up your imagination then is to find the unfamiliar and challenge the frontal cortex.
When jazz musicians are engaged in improvisation, a large region of this part of the brain involved in monitoring one’s performance is shut down, while a small region involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts and behaviors is highly activated. Researchers believe that this is likely to be a key indicator of a brain that is engaged in highly creative thought.
The same is true when you pretend you are a child. Psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University told two groups of undergraduates to “Imagine school is canceled, and you have the entire day to yourself. What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you see?” The group that was also told to also “Imagine you are 7 years old.” scored much higher on creativity tests.
According to Gregory Berns, neuroscientist and author of Iconoclast just putting yourself in a new situation can make you see things differently and jump-start your creativity. So next time you feel stifled, do something you’ve never done before, or simply take a hike. That’s what got me thinking about this post.