There IS a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
— Sophia Loren
As we get older it can be harder to be creative. We get set in our ways and mistakenly think we are too old to try something new. But I would encourage you that your golden years are a great time to uncover your creative side. As our children get older and less dependent and our careers wind down we have more time to pursue our long-forgotten dreams.
Did you know that Grandma Moses did not begin her painting career until her 70s. There are numerous other people featured in the slideshow at the bottom of this post who created some of their greatest works well after the 60th decade.
Encouraging creativity later in life has mental and physical health benefits. You’re challenging your brain to create new connections, it gives you something to look forward to and keeps you socially involved.
Creativity is not something that only a few more people are born with. If we are open to new ways of thinking we can increase our creativity in every aspect of our lives. Can you imagine what the world would be like without creativity? We’d still be wearing the same clothing styles, driving old cars and without most technological inventions.
Creativity can be defined as “a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is created.” Mikael Cho writes that “creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain.”
Many people think of creativity in terms of things like arts, crafts and writing. But we also need creativity when looking for solutions, ideas, inventions and new ways of doing things. We can be creative cooks, gardeners, educators or in business.
The key to creativity is letting your imagination run free without any of our normal self-doubts or negative thinking. When you want to be more creative, there are a few tricks you can use to free your creative side.
5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Creativity
Turn Down the Lights
Creative types tend to do their best work late at night or early in the morning. While this is often a quiet time the real reason these times allow creativity to flourish is because of the lighting.
According to a report published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, “darkness triggers a chain of interrelated processes, including a cognitive processing style, which is beneficial to creativity.” In dim lighting, our brains become more exploratory as we are less inhibited. The study also found that when we are less self-conscious we are more creative.
Walking Away from the Problem
Sometimes we come to a mental block when working. We can’t think of the right word, solution or idea. In these cases, it might be helpful to walk away temporarily. Scientists even have a name for this break from creative problem solving: Incubation.
Go for a walk, get something to eat, play a game. When you are in a relaxed state your brain can connect previously learned information in a new way. Jonathan Schooler found that participants in a study who spent a brief period of time on an easy task that allowed the mind to wander did better on a following test of creativity.
In the same way, exercise can improve your creativity. Several studies have shown that exercise improves your cognitive abilities including creative thinking immediately after exercising and up to two hours later.
Even if you’re not stuck or encountering a writer’s block it is still helpful to take breaks to recharge your brain.
Listen to Happy Music or Funny Videos
When we are in a bad mood we tend to self-criticize our ideas and focus too narrowly. By surrounding ourselves with positive people, funny people or upbeat happy music we can improve our mood. A positive mood has been correlated with more flexible and creative thinking.
Have a Sip of Vino Creativity
This might be the easiest way to be more creative but I don’t recommend trying out this tip at the office. Research shows that a beer or a glass of wine can help your creative side.
Alcohol decreases your working memory so you’re paying less attention to your immediate surroundings and increases your creativity. Just be sure to review your creative solutions the morning after to make sure you didn’t imbibe too much.
Sleep and Creativity
Sleep and creativity are closely linked. Perhaps you’ve experienced this when waking up in the morning or the middle of the night with a sudden break through. When we sleep our brain consolidates the information we learned throughout the day and our thinking can become clearer.
While working during our peak times is best for focussed analytical tasks, a new study shows that night owls tend to do their most creative thinking in the morning while early-birds are most creative at night. The reason for this is that when we are less focussed we can think more broadly and make connections that we wouldn’t normally think of.
The book Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande gives aspiring writers an exercise to silence their inner critic. She tells them to wake up early and write non-stop for 30 minutes. By writing non-stop in a sleepy state you are free to write without worry about the content or structure of your writing. Once you have your morning coffee you can edit and analyze your ideas. You may be surprised at what you can generate in a short period of time when you’re not constrained by your inner editor.
It may seem contradictory that both sleep and a lack of sleep can enhance creativity. The real lesson is that creativity can strike at any time. While we can create more optimal conditions, often times we simply need to shut down our inner critic as best as we can and work on creating something new or better.
Scott Adams said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” How many different prototypes did Edison try out before inventing the light bulb? How many paintings did artists like Rembrandt and Picasso create that didn’t become masterpieces? When you keep questioning, creating and trying you will eventually come up with something amazing.
Creativity in Later Life SlideShow by Dr. Mitch Ditkoff
About the Author: Dr. Carolyn Anderson is an eye surgeon who founded Impowerage to raise money for macular degeneration research. She practices cataract surgery in Langley, BC and is a professional speaker who speaks on managing your energy.
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