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Secrets to Keeping Your Brain and Creativity Sharp as You Get Older

When my daughter was in preschool, we had a pretty regular thing going. I’d give her broccoli, she’d frown and fold her arms across her chest, and I’d sigh in resignation. Until one day I decided to draw on my previously nonexistent improv skills: “I need you to be the guard. Don’t let any ogres get near that tree, and especially don’t let an ogre eat it,” I told her. “Can you do this, guard?”

While mental illness clearly runs in the Vonnegut family, so, I found, does creativity. Kurt’s father was a gifted architect, and his older brother Bernard was a talented physical chemist and inventor who possessed 28 patents. Mark is a writer, and both of Kurt’s daughters are visual artists. Kurt’s work, of course, needs no introduction.

“When you take breaks, you can solve problems in fresher ways than you could if you just kept your nose to the grindstone,” he says. “Our brains are like any machine: They need a rest.”

Keep Learning

Continuously learning has been proven by experts to keep the mental abilities of humans working actively and their memory intact. Anything that involves learning is encouraged. It challenges your brain’s mental capabilities and maintains the individual brain cells and the communication between them. Reading books have been said to decrease the rate of memory decline in old age by 32%.

Improves mental health.

The average person has about 60,000 thoughts in a day. A creative act such as crafting can help focus the mind, and has even been compared to meditation due to its calming effects on the brain and body. Even just gardening or sewing releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant.

Drawing on the Right Minds

The first priority of leadership is to engage the right people, at the right times, to the right degree in creative work. That engagement starts when the leader recasts the role of employees. Rather than simply roll up their sleeves and execute top-down strategy, employees must contribute imagination. As Cook put it, “Traditional management prioritizes projects and assigns people to them. But increasingly, managers are not the source of the idea.”

A win for your wellbeing

A growing number of studies over the past 15 years has found that participating in creative efforts can help stave off loneliness, mitigate dementia and enhance engagement. And when we’re not exposed to anything new, cognitive decline may accelerate. Any activity that keeps the brain active helps with ageing, explains Dr Kounios. When you learn new skills, take up new hobbies or encounter new situations, you grow new brain cells and form fresh connections between existing ones.

Stages of Creativity

Because creativity is a cognitive process and these processes often take place in organized stages, Helmholtz (1826) and Wallas (1926) suggested that creativity has four stages. The first stage is “preparation,” and in this stage, a person develops the knowledge and skills needed to discover, develop, and produce a creative product. This development depends on two major factors exposure–experience–learning and the brain’s ability to store, process, and use this knowledge. The next stage is what they termed “incubation.” This is the stage where a person’s brain nonconsciously searches for an answer or attempts to find unity.

How the brain innovates

Where in the brain does creativity reside? Some bodily functions—like wiggling your toes—stem from a specific “address” in the brain. But creativity is more like a boat on a river than a stationary street address. It involves brain networks linking memory and language, spatial understanding, and fine motor skills.

What Happens in the Brain During Creative Thinking?

So now that you know about three different types of creativity, insight, convergent thinking, and divergent thinking, you might think that the brain processes must be complicated. Previous research has demonstrated that several different thought processes in the brain, including processes called working memoryA memory system in the brain with a limited capacity that is responsible for the short-term holding, processing, and manipulation of information., abstractionA thought process that is characterized by adaptability and flexibility. Abstraction involves considering things that may not have concrete things, or specific objects. Example of an abstract concept is, “freedom” and “law.”, planningA set of brain functions necessary for the control of behavior. Planning is the process of thinking about and organizing activities required to achieve a goal., and cognitive flexibilityAllows you to either easily switch between thinking about two different concepts or to think about multiple concepts at the same time., are all critical to creative thinking.

Take a creative stroll.

We all know a sedentary life is bad for your health, and it turns out exercise is also good for your creative thinking. Simply getting up and going for a walk will improve brain function and boost your creativity. One study found that walking benefited creative brainstorming and enhanced “divergent” or unconventional thinking.

Brain Myths of Creativity #1: Left Brain and Right Brain?

Have you ever been asked if you are left brained or right brained (Figure 3)? This question refers to the idea that each hemisphere of the brain is specialized for different abilities. In general, the left hemisphere has been thought to specialize in understanding words, processing mathematical information, and thinking analytically (the “rational” brain). The right hemisphere, on the other hand, was thought to specialize in processing non-verbal information, spatial information, music, emotions, and creativity.



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