Four Creativity Strategies to Recharge an Aging Brain
What Creativity Does
How Much Creativity Do You Need?
Strategies for Triggering the Creative Proces
Change one element in an activity. Doing the same thing repeatedly may be comfortable, but it does not involve learning, and therefore, does not trigger the creative process that establishes new neural connections. However, just changing one small feature will require you to learn something new. For example, every morning, I drive the same way to reach the park where I walk my dog. There is nothing creative about the routine. But what if I made a game of how I would get there? For example, each day, I could roll dice, and the number that came up would determine how many blocks I drove in the opposite direction before heading to the park. Although it may appear to be silly, the process of changing how I get to my arrival point involves creativity.
Add Something New to a Routine. Instead of changing a routine, it might be easier just adding a new element. For example, when watching your favorite TV drama, pause it every ten or so minutes, and predict what will happen when you resume watching. Who will Olivia on Law and Order accuse for the murder? It makes little difference how correct your predictions are, what is essential is that you are activating the creative process.
Engage in an Activity that Constantly Changes. Every day I spend between two and three hours sculpting either wood or stone. With each chipping away of material, I need to decide where I will make the next cut, how much to take off, and how the amount will affect my overall design. Most art activities involve the same type of constant changes.
Begin a New Activity. The best example is learning a new language. Everything is fresh: the meaning of words, the syntax, and pronunciation. You are constantly matching words in the new language with its English equivalents then coordinating it with the muscles required to speak it. A similar creative process occurs when you improvise a melody on an instrument or compose a poem.
The End Products
The purpose of creative activities for brain health is not to produce a sellable or even a laudable product. My sculptures are laughable compared to ones done by Rodin. My musical compositions are only slightly better than the tunes hummed by my granddaughter. And my modifications of tried-and-true recipes often result in inedible dinners. Although it would be nice if people praised my creative efforts, that’s not why I do them. Each of these activities creates new neural connections that can preserve my cognitive ability or at least slow down its deterioration.
Don’t expect results tomorrow. Just as muscle strength takes time to develop after years of idleness, so does improved memory and better reasoning abilities. But you will immediately experience a delightful side benefit: engaging in creative activities allows you to stay in the moment temporarily blocking out the daily grind of life. Not bad for something so easy to do and beneficial for your brain and soul.
This article is also featured in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global