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December 03, 2015 Thursday 06:57:03 PM IST

Identify your personal creative context

Creative Living

Does the context of your life influence your creative excellence? Yes, think the experts. They believe that certain ambient parameters could radically influence your creative efficiency. The way in which your five senses engage with the physical environment could either catalyze or retard the rate of your creative outputs. Of course, your mind could reign over your body and eradicate the restrictions offered by your senses. Mind is capable of transcending all its limitations producing creative outcomes even from adverse environments. A disciplined mind can get energized even by such dark matter of life. No question about that. However, your physical ambience could catch you unawares, it being the ground state of your being. It is your least-energy state. It is here you normally reside. You may at times transcend this natural state; get excited to higher energy levels, but always to return to the ground state. The environment you are in is your natural state, where you exist under normal conditions. A slight change in this environment could unleash your creative energy or kill your creative impulses. So it is important to identify the optimum environmental condition, which makes you naturally creative.

 

For great seers of Himalayas, silence was the locus of their creative reflections. “In silence you are your original selves. You are your voice, without an iota of noise”, they believed. The wellsprings of creativity emanates from your inner core, once you are in the grip of silence. The great spiritual truths were revealed to the seers, the prophets and the seekers in general, in a state of silence. In silence they conversed with the Silence, which is the ultimate source of creativity. This wisdom is inherited by the Indians from time immemorial. Modern studies, however, unfolds a different truth, apparently contradicting the ancient wisdom. A path-breaking research by the University of British Columbia concludes that moderate levels of steady background noise actually spur creativity and abstract thinking better than silence. They specify a noise level of approximately 70 decibels to suit the purpose. It is equivalent to the sound generated by a passenger car traveling on a highway. It is an ambient noise level of seashore, a waterfall, a deep night. For a city-dweller, it could be comparable to the noise levels of a local coffee shop. It could be the sound of the daybreak as the birds begin to chirp. These natural noises inhibit trivial distractions of mind and keep it focused, the study suggests. They counter the interior noises and intrinsic distractions. They drive a creative mind ‘out of the box’. They trigger abstract thinking or abstract data processing, which is the hallmark of creativity. A careful analysis, however, may reveal that the seers of Himalayas would have chosen the presence of waterfalls with low-ambient noise for their contemplation with the same intention. Large number of new generation apps is available to simulate suitable sound bytes for creative thinking. Examples are: Coffitivity, Ambient Mixer, 99U Music Mixes, Raining.fm, Focus@Will.

 


High noise levels of the order of 85 decibels could shatter creative thinking. That is equivalent to traffic noise on a major highway, the cacophony of a disco. Such noise levels hamper with the ability of human minds to process information. It distracts to retards creativity. An inverted- U or bell-shaped correlation seems to exist between noise levels and levels of creativity. The optimum spot is at about 70 decibels. That is just right as in a “Goldilocks Principle”. (Goldilocks Principle, for example, differentiates between the planets Venus, Mars and the Earth. The planet Venus has too much of greenhouse effect making it too hot and unlivable. Too less of it makes the planet Mars too cold and unlivable. For Earth, it is just right and the life thrives on it). Similar observation is there for the effect of ambient colors on creative thinking. Ravi Mehta and Rui Zhu suggest that the blue color boosts creative thinking. It is better background color for a room for creative tasks like brainstorming. Blue environmental cues actually prompted the participants of a brainstorming session to produce twice as many creative outputs, the empirical study reveals. Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean. Many associate blue color with openness, peace and tranquility. It is in fact, for a large number of people living on the globe, the most favorite color. The benign cues derived from the blue color make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory, suggests the research study. It provokes an approach-based, exploratory motivational state, which is conducive to creativity. The red color, on the other hand, enhances the attention to detail. It makes suitable context for memory retrieval and proof-reading that are detail-oriented tasks. The research also suggests that background color influences communications. It is found that people turned more receptive to a new, fictional brand of toothpaste that focused on negative messages such as “cavity prevention” when the background color was red. However, people were more receptive to positive messages such as “tooth whitening” when the background color was rendered in blue. One may easily infer that it is the meaning we associate to the color that gives it its powers. How true! For example, red has a connotation of danger. It is often used in commands to stop. We are expected to stop at red traffic light and proceed when it turns green. Such meanings are attached to the colors by the cultural milieu. There is nothing intrinsic to the colors that promote this attribution. It is extrinsic associations with the colors. However, there seems to be a common consensus over the significance of color in society. It has become part and parcel of the collective consciousness. Colors receive their powers to ignite creativity or to extinguish it often from these significances society attaches to them. But it often works! Important is also the intensity of the light used. The lighting conditions during the day influence your wakefulness. For example, sitting near a window in the diffuse day light keeps you awake for longer time. It works by controlling your hormonal secretions which delays sleep. If you cannot afford to sit by a window during the day, using lighting that mimics daylight rather than fluorescent lighting can help keep you alert. A 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology concludes that dim lighting can help creative performance. Interpretation goes as follows: Darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggers a risky, explorative processing style. Decorating the office space with lively images from nature, especially with green landscapes, can boost your creativity. According to a study in Science, something as simple as changing the background screen on your computer to blue color can help enhance your creativity. Your sense of touch also need adequate ambience to contribute to your creative outputs. If your work environment is too cold, you will underperform. A study by Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, found that feeling cold in your work environment negatively impacts your focus and performance. A rise in the temperature in a workspace from 20 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius reduces the errors typists make by 44%, estimates Alan Hedge. The optimum ambient temperature enhances efficiency of work. If the ambient is colder than your personal optimum temperature, you may need to burn your vital energy to keep warm. It is the energy lost for creative thinking. It distracts you. “If you’re uncomfortable in your skin, it’s hard to think of anything else”, goes a saying. Uncomfortable office hair or constrictive work garments could similarly distract you. Listen to the cues sent out of your body and get comfortable, it is the rule of the thumb. A gentle breeze that smears your skin or a soft pillow that support your back may be enough to trigger your creative moods. Your tongue and the food and drink it tastes also determine your creativity skills. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology monitored what college-age adults ate and correlated it to their moods. It was found that those participants who ate seven to eight servings of fruits or vegetables a day reported meaningful positive changes in mood. The food you eat is also a food for thought! You are what you eat. What you eat is that eventually become your thoughts

 

Your nose and the smell it inhales could also be definitive to your creative thinking. Studies have shown that certain smells can help stimulate your focus and creativity. The environmental psychologist Sally Augustin has reported the psychological reactions different smells can engender. Lemon and jasmine, for example, improves cognitive performance. Rosemary and grapefruit smells are said to be energizing, while vanilla and cinnamon smells can help enhance creativity. Even though there are some general guidelines for the suitable environment that make an individual creative, there is no universal solution applicable to all. They need to be calibrated for an individual, tailor-made taking into account, the personal tastes, traits and attitudes. A creative environment is meant to be strictly personal. One has to identify it.


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