Creativity and insight are neurological cousins. Inspiration and passion drives creativity whereas insight is typically driven by sweat of the brow analytical thinking related to a single specific problem you are working on.
Insight happens when the old brain (subconscious) is able to solve an intractable problem and then communicates the solution via intuition or gut feelings to the new brain (conscious).
When you are working on a project or specific problem and you feel stuck, there are strategies that can help you maximize creativity and insight. I thought I’d run through a few of those boosters:
- Sleep – Getting adequate sleep is critical for creativity and insight. Sleep deprivation is a creativity and insight killer. For most, 6-8 hours of sleep should do the trick. More important than the number of hours of sleep is the number of sleep cycles. Four is a minimum, five ideal.
- Change Your Environment – Put down what you’re doing. Take a walk, take a shower, listen to music, read a book, etc. The key is to divert your attention to something completely different and unrelated to the problem you are trying to solve. This diversion allows your old brain time to work offline on the problem.
- Meditate – Meditation is really nothing more than a conscious effort to slow your brain down to the point where the brain goes into alpha state (7-10 cycles/second).
- Moderate Alcohol – One to two glasses of wine, beer or alcohol reduces inhibitions, increases dopamine and can be beneficial in increasing creativity.
- Moderate Caffeine – Caffeine stimulates the brain by blocking adenosine, a chemical in the brain involved in making us feel sleepy.
- Exercise – Exercise increases blood flow, oxygen levels and the production of glucose in your blood. This oxygen and glucose enriched blood eventually makes its way to your brain, feeding the brain with fuel to help provide you with the brain fuel creativity and insight needs in order to work.
- Take a Nap – One of the most important purposes of napping is to restore willpower. When willpower is low, we need rest to restore it. Restored willpower helps improve brain function. When willpower is low, our new brain slows down and, with it, our ability to analytically solve problems declines.