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Have you ever heard of Google’s 20% rule? As a company, they encourage their employees to spend 20% of their time (that’s work time) on personal projects. You read that right. Now, before everyone starts applying for a job at Google, let’s think about why Google has implemented this rule. Personal growth enhances work productivity.
How does this work? Doesn’t “slacking” off or not working promote, well…not working? The logical mind might believe this is so; however, the creative mind understands that all work and no play, makes the brain a dull organ. Here’s the science behind it, in case you’re thinking of begging your employer for some me time. Researchers from the San Francisco State psychology department discovered that employees who took up creative hobbies were more likely to use their talents to improve their work and were less likely to struggle with negative stressors. In fact, surmountable evidence exists that provides us with this finding: The brain needs periodic breaks, and in these breaks, it finds countless benefits.
Making New Connections through Creativity
People who work with computers know that it is best to shut them down, regularly, when not in use. The more a computer runs, the more it eats up memory and works less efficiently. The brain functions similarly. Downtime for the brain increases attention, productivity, and may even promote moral decision making. Taking naps, walks, and vacations are good for us. And as research has found and Google has utilized, personal growth through creativity sharpens the mind.
Downtime is a bit paradoxical. The brain never completely shuts down. Through the use of electroencephalograms (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists have found that many of the brain’s synaptic connections (the conduit for transmission from one neuron to another) fire more readily during states of rest. Regions of the brain that are otherwise inactive during moments of concentration are alive during downtime. For example, when we daydream, our brains go into default mode network (DMN). DMN allows the brain to process information that is pertinent to our personal growth. We can organize our to-do lists, contemplate a better way to approach a task, and replay mistakes in order to learn a valuable lesson.
To date, scientists are aware of four other resting-state networks, besides DMN: Vision, memory and attention, movement, and hearing. Think about what activities use these networks. Do you like to dance? Are you an avid yogi? Do you like to paint or look at art? Can you play an instrument? Or do you like to go outside, lie on your back, listen to the sounds of nature, and watch the clouds with your toddler? You don’t have to be an artist or a musician to be creative. All you need is to have a little imagination, and aren’t we lucky that our brains daydream so readily and instinctively?
How to Tap into Your Imagination
Creativity requires very little. You can think of it more as a process. What happens when you don’t know the solution to a problem? You think about it (or obsess). Analyzing, synthesizing, and formulating are all aspects of creation. From highly intuitive and artistic people, to the most logical and sensible among us, creativity merges affect and analytics. So whether you can spend hours in your studio creating a mural of your hometown or only have time for a five-minute break to get more coffee, you are engaging in creativity.
Research has found that creativity occurs more readily while:
· Being bored
· Being slightly unorganized
· Being tired
· Sitting in low-light
· Consuming a cocktail
· Experiencing symptoms of mild psychosis, such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, or schizophrenia
· Imagining you are somewhere else (daydreaming)
So does this mean that you need to walk aimlessly in a dimly lit room, searching for a drink, because you are bored and need to be anywhere other than at your messy desk? Not exactly, but these situations could lead you to let go a little and allow yourself some unstructured time for personal growth. To be more creative, you first need to recognize that much of what you already do is resourceful and inventive. After you have identified the numerous times throughout the day that you use creativity, start to become more mindful about the purposes of your creativity. Creativity can be applied to helping others, such as ways to provide for homeless members of your community. You can use creativity to enhance relationships with a spouse, coworker, or neighbor. Most importantly, you can use creativity for personal growth and insight.
Just remember that if you feel blocked somehow or doubt that you could be a creative person, all it takes is a little daydreaming—staring out the window, looking at the clouds—to start the flow of ideation.
·Which areas of your life could use some inspiration?
·What talents do you already possess?
·What time are you willing to dedicate to downtime?
·Which methods of spurring creativity work best for you (boredom, walking, changing your environment)?
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Bayer, R. (2004). Creativity Enhances Our Lives. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.upperbay.org/DO NOT TOUCH - WEBSITE/articles/creativity.pdf
Burns, W. (2014, August 13). Science Continues To Show Us How To Be More Creative. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/willburns/2014/08/13/science-continues-to-show-us-how-to-be-more-creative/
Jabr, F. (2013, October 15). Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/
Morris, C. (n.d.). Our Greatest Untapped Resource. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://talentdevelop.com/our-greatest-untapped-resource/
Turner, P. (n.d.). The Amazing Benefits of Creative Time. Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://blog.theliteracysite.com/health-creativity/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=twc&utm_campaign=health-creativity&utm_term=20150220