creativity · mental health · psychology

Visualizations, brainstorming, and daydreaming

English: Rêverie (Daydream)
Visualization and daydreaming are useful tools. Above: the painting Rêverie (Daydream) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been reading about visualization a lot lately. It can seem kind of hokey or too touchy-feely for some, and I’m usually not one to buy into “if you build it, they will come” kinds of ideas. However, studies are finding that visualization has a lot of positive benefits; usually articles and research focus on the relaxation and pain reduction aspects of visualization, but it also helps formalize one’s ideas, missions, and goals, and how to achieve them.

When most people visualize something for relaxation purposes, they think of outdoor spaces, whether it’s the beach, the woods, or a mountain top. Something wide open. Very few people think of cityscapes when trying to visualize a relaxing place. Women in labor or people using visualization for pain reduction will visualize things opening and releasing, usually a flower or something else natural.

For goal setting, visualization is definitely more personal, but it also often involves the person visualizing themselves doing something they enjoy, whatever it is that makes them feel happy and alive, energized and inspired to go after their goals. Scoring the game-winning goal, building the perfect dream house, nailing the presentation at work. The object of the exercise in all of these cases is imagining themselves in a specific scenario, seeing, tasting, smelling exactly what that’s like, being happy and successful.

Scientists and strategists often describe how sitting with a problem, thinking through its complexities and possible scenarios to solve the challenge.

What’s also interesting to me is that all of these scenarios for visualization could also be described as slightly more focused daydreaming.

Daydreaming, which is considered a type of play, is often dismissed as a waste of time. But it has been shown to be extremely useful for both children and adults in problem-solving, understanding mathematical or biological concepts, or just coming up with new ideas, whether it’s understanding energy or butterfly wings. It’s also good training for more focused practices like visualization, meditation, or focused brainstorming practiced in many professions.

My advice is to take some time this weekend and daydream on a topic of interest or a problem you’ve been having, or move up a step in complexity and try visualization or brainstorming on it.

There’s really no one way to daydream or visualize, although there are lots of suggested techniques out there.

What do you find yourself daydreaming about? Do you have a goal, dream, passion? Think about what that might look like? What are you doing, how are you doing it?

Do you have a problem or challenge that has been creeping into your mind without your consent? Instead of pushing it away, let it come in and think about it? Why is it bothering you? What are some ways to fix it?

Wishing you all a happy Friday, and a visualization-filled weekend.

brain · cognition · creativity · music · neuroscience

How the brain reacts to music, improv

As a follow-up to my previous post about brain reactions to improv, creativity, and problem-solving, check out my post on my other blog, Art of Science, to see the TED talk by Charles Limb discussing how the brain works on music.

How the brain reacts to music, improv.

behavior · brain · creativity · learning · psychology

The Body Odd – Watching Jon Stewart might make you more creative

Jon Stewart
Watching sarcastic comedians like Jon Stewart exercise your creativity. Image via Wikipedia

Both my parents were fairly sarcastic, and even got chided for it by their parents since it “set a bad example” for us kids. According to this study, however, they were actually doing us a favor!

Israeli researchers found that when people overheard anger conveyed in a sarcastic way, they were better able to solve creative problems, according to a recent report in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

In one experiment, researchers recruited 184 Israeli undergrads, all engineering students, and had them listen to one of three versions of a fake customer service center phone call. In each conversation, a customer called to complain about cell phone service problems — the “customer’s” speech was either angry, sarcastic, or neutral.

After eavesdropping on these pretend exchanges, the participants were asked to solve a series of problems — some creative, some analytic.

“Observing anger enhanced analytic problem solving, but hindered the solving of creative problems,” write Dorit Efrat-Treister, Anat Rafaeli and Orit Scwarz-Cohen, all of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, along with Ella Miron-Spektor of Bar-Ilan University.  They add that “observing sarcasm improved the solving of creative problems.”

more via The Body Odd – Watching Jon Stewart might make you more creative.

Having to decipher sarcasm, interpreting the emotion behind the words, apparently helped the undergrads get into a creative problem-solving mode. The group didn’t speculate why this might be the case, but it is interesting to think about humor and how it can affect the brain.

This is also one reason why I feel email and writing aren’t always the best form of communication; it’s hard to indicate sarcasm in writing.