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April 01, 2016 Friday 07:03:02 PM IST

Be physically fit for creative tasks

Creative Living

There are evidences that physical fitness could influence the creative output of your life. The food you eat, the way you sleep, the physical exercises you adopt, all of them have a say on your creativeness. They uniquely define an ideal ecosystem for your creative wellbeing. You need to identify your ideal physical parameters that support your creativity and plan a life-style based on that to be creative in a sustainable manner. Creative spirit is found to be ignited by the body movements. Are you got stuck with a problem? Are you choked in your thought process? Or are your ideas drying up? Just get out of your seat, move a bit, take a walk, have a sip of water, take a bath, take a nap, listen to music, and you will hear the solution of your problem already knocking at your door. Just escape your study and get the creative juices flowing! Physical movements have the power to resolve the chaos of your thoughts. Entangled with mind-boggling problems, Einstein would lift his violin and start playing it. The soothing music of the violin would have invariably untied the knots of his thoughts, as he testified it. How does it work? Keith Sawer, who has made extensive research on creativity suggests: “Physical activity gets your mind into the bodily experience, so that subconscious connections can pop up.” Physical movements enable you to think differently, think fluently, think flexibly and think originally. It recuperates your creative power! Workouts boost creative thinking. Lorenza Colzato of Leiden University of The Netherlands has shown that those who worked out at least four times a week thought much more creatively than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. History of creative minds bears witness to this fact. Great authors like Henry James and Thomas Mann used to walk a distance before embarking on their writing projects Henry Thoreau, the philosopher has observed that as he moved his legs, moved along with them his creative spirit too. Beethoven was not physically fit. But he used to start his days with a morning walk during which he would scribble his musical moods into a pocket book. Having limbered up his mind and migrating himself into a unique state of trance, he would return to his study to pen his symphonies. William Wordsworth had a habit of composing his poems while walking. He is said to have composed the entire poem, “Tintern Abbey”, during a walk and have altered no single line of it afterwards! Craig Finn of the band the Hold Steady is used to running long distances to gather ideas for new songs: He said: “Long runs are a very meditative time. My mind gets to a crazy, unique place once I get above 10 miles. It’s a time for some very clear thinking. I don’t know that it’s conscious, but I always feel inspired to write after I run”, says Craig Finn. Physical exercise of course improves physical health and appearance. But it is much more than that. It also has a profound effect on your brain chemistry. Working out has above-the-neck benefits, too! Let us list a few of them:


Exercise pumps fresh blood to the brain, promoting creative thinking. Aerobic fitness keeps your heart strong to pump good supply of blood to the brain. Thus a heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. You’re working out your brain at the same time as your heart.


Exercise sustains neuroplasticity, which is essential for learning. The brain attains better ability to adapt to new learning and ideas. It helps brain to rewrite itself better.


Exercise enlarges hippocampus – a part of the brain responsible for memory. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.


Exercise improves “brain volume,” meaning a greater number of neurons, which allows for more effective brain function.


Exercise improves attention, memory, accuracy, and improves speed of information processing, all of which help you make smarter decisions.


Exercise reduces the presence of cortisol and adrenaline in the body: body burns adrenaline during exercises and flushes out cortisol after a workout. Cortisol is the hormone that helps trigger the “fight or flight” response under stress conditions. Reduction in cortisol generation shuts down brain functions for the sake of creative problem-solving.


Exercise neither releases nor epinephrine, which influences attention, perception, motivation, and arousal. It again moderates the response of brain towards stress.


Exercise promotes your pituitary gland to release endorphins, producing a feel good mood. It creates feelings of happiness and euphoria, motivating creative indulgences.                     


Exercise creates condition for brain to release dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to it. Exercise signals the release of several key hormones, including serotonin, the famed mood booster. Exercise releases dopamine, which affects learning and attention. Exercise-induced chemical cocktail elevate neurotransmitters in the brain, it helps us focus, feel better, and release tension.


Exercise promotes the growth of new nerve cells and synapses through elevating levels of neurotrophins, a chemical that fosters the growth of new nerve endings.


Exercise increases the level of oxygen in the blood, which helps provide mental energy.


Every muscle you move during physical exercise sends hormones rushing to your brain. There, they mix with a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which plays a role in brain cell growth, mood regulation, and learning. “BDNF is like fertilizer for the brain,” says John J. Ratey, Ph.D., a clinica associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Without it, our brains can’t take in new information or make new cells.” It also helps with decision making, higher thinking, and learning.


Moderate workout works as a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Exercise raises the body’s core temperature, requiring sleep.


Exercise both increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and facilitates interaction between it and the amygdala. This is vitally important to creative minds because the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that helps bring down the amygdala’s fear and anxiety signals and create something beautiful out of it.


Exercise under the sun helps acquire Vitamin D, which lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.


Exercise enhances physical and mental endurance, those required by high levels of productive thought. Exercises and workouts deliver fresh ideas and inspiration almost by osmosis. Your mind frees up to cross-fertilize. As you return to intellectual pursuits, you are far better equipped at connecting ideas, synthesizing and synergizing them into something novel. Experiments have shown that physical exercise improves the scores of a Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, a widely used test that measures creative abilities in children and adults.


Exercise enhances creativity in individuals who work up a sweat on a regular basis. What kinds of exercises are better for boosting creativity? There is a general agreement that low-concentration exercises are better in this regard. They allow your mind to bathe in freedom. They include brisk walking, swimming laps, hiking, or running. Moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercises that allow you to carry on a conversation while performing them are ideal in this regard. On the other hand, sports such as golf or tennis, or team activities, like soccer or basketball require too much strategizing or in-the-moment focus. They may not be ideal for quenching your immediate needs of creative solutions. Do not forget your notepad or tape recorder as you perform your light workouts. You should take care to jot down brilliant ideas that surfaces in your mind.


Dare yourself to be a Beethoven! Get to work right after your workout, while your creative juices are flowing. The shower can wait! Experiments have shown that after just 30 minutes of doing low-concentration moderate-intensity exercises people could complete a cognitive test faster than they did before exercising. Such brain-boosting effect of exercise lasted for at least 52 minutes after the workout. Yoga can also put your mind into a creative mode. Yoga means “to join or yoke together” bringing the mind and body together for an experience of perfect harmony. Such psychosomatic harmony could ease creation. Hatha Yoga for example boosts your skills of problem solving and multi-tasking. The focused breathing and meditation during Hatha Yoga pumps energy to the brain and equip you to high- grade mental performances, including creative thinking. It is better to exercise in nature, where it is calm. Nature stokes creativity and strengthens cognitive powers better than urban environments. In an urban environment, your mind is never at ease. You have to pay attention to all sorts of external stimuli, such as cars in crosswalks and people on sidewalks. It is survival mode, not conducive for creative spurs. A natural environment gives the directed-attention part of your brain some vacation time, freeing it to replenish.


People generally complain that they are not rich in time to indulge in physical exercises. However, those who take time for regular workouts know that such investments are in the better interest. They will be more than compensated and rewarded with creative solutions, which radically cut their time budgets.