As I sit here writing, I wonder how I can creatively draw your attention to this post, hook you in, and make you want to continue reading. I’m struggling, when it all of a sudden hits me—my lack of creativity has a lot to do with what I did this morning! Well now I may as well just come right out and say it, with creativity notably lacking, our morning routines are killing our creativity!
In an insightful PsychologyToday article, Annie Murphy Paul highlights the frightening idea that “…the way most of us spend our morning is exactly counter to the conditions that neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists tell us promote flexible, open-minded thinking.” The article pinpoints 4 common morning routines that should be put on trial for killing our creativity.
1. The Hurried Wake-up
Do you wake up to a blaring alarm every morning, rushing to turn it off and jumping out of bed, already behind schedule? This is infraction number one. You should really be allowing yourself the chance to lie in bed, groggy and unfocused, for a short period of time, before getting up. During this morning haze, “the mental processes that inhibit distracting or irrelevant thoughts are at their weakest, allowing unexpected and sometimes inspired connections to be made.” The “diffuse attention focus,” characteristic of the moments after waking, allow for a wider scope of mental activity (much like daydreaming), hence increased creativity.
2. The Stressful Commute
If you can feel your stress level rising as you wait in traffic or get nudged by a fellow passenger, you’re inhibiting your creativity. When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which constricts your blood vessels thus raising your blood pressure. In high amounts, cortisol can even damage your brain’s myelin, an important fat-like covering for your neurons that increases the speed of signaling. This is especially important for creativity when we want quick thoughts to pass through our brains, so as to have a “lighting quick ‘Eureka!’ moment”.
3. The Morning News
While it is important to be educated on what’s going on in the world, this may be an activity better suited for the evening. Generally, watching the news makes people feel sad, causing a significant decline in problem solving abilities and creativity. On the other hand, videos that foster a positive mood actually increase “cognitive flexibility”. For most people, their entire daily routine should be flipped–filling the morning with funny YouTube videos and passing the nighttime watching the news.
4. Cutting Back on Caffeine
If you are avoiding the morning cup-of-joe in an attempt to consume less caffeine, you will be surprised to learn that your creativity is being inhibited by this morning decision. Caffeine, in moderation, not only makes you more alert, but it also increases the brain’s level of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that “influences feelings of motivation and reward when we hit on a great idea.”
These are just a few easy tips to help you get your creative juices flowing. How hard can it be to make a few changes and watch a funny YouTube video while sipping on coffee every morning?