Why Humans Can Be So Creative, and How to Boost Creativity
October 24, 2023
Creativity – producing something new, unseen, and unheard of.
At our award-winning NYC and LA based video production company, creativity is at the heart of everything we do. We make a wide range of content including commercial, animation, event, explainer, corporate, and social media videos. The quality of our cinematography and video editing, storytelling, scripting, direction, and strategy wouldn’t be where it is without a lot of creativity.
But why do humans have such a huge capacity for creativity?
Creativity for Survival & Pleasure
Creativity is a survival tool. Killer whales have demonstrated creativity by using fish to lure seagulls and teaching other killer whales to do the same (Carey, 2006).
Creativity allows us to make our lives more enjoyable. Dolphins figured out they could get high off of pufferfish toxins and started passing them around with other dolphins (Nuwer, 2013).
From what we are able to tell, though, it appears that humans are the most creative of all creatures. Humans went from creating bows and arrows to creating incredibly rich spoken languages, constructing intricate cities, devising how to leave and return to Earth, and developing the internet.
The Biology of Creativity
A ‘creative epiphany’ is a sudden perspective, idea, or solution that can be used to create something new or solve a previously challenging problem. Our brains reward these creative epiphanies the same way that our brains reward sex, drugs, and delicious food. People vary in the amount of pleasure they receive from creative epiphanies (Anderer, 2020).
But why are humans particularly creative?
Around 100,000 years ago, around the beginning of modern human existence, a network of creative self-awareness genes emerged. 267 genes from this group are not found in chimpanzees or Neanderthals, only modern humans. They allow us to be creative in narrative art and science, be more pro social, and even live longer. These genes provide us with more resistance to aging, injuries, and illness (American Museum of Natural History, 2021).
How to Boost Creativity
Spend time in nature! Looking at nature, as opposed to electronic devices, lowers our anxiety and heart rates. This allows our brains to form connections more easily. Just 25 minutes in an urban green space can put us into a state that heightens awareness of the present moment and imagination. So next time you’re feeling cooped up and in a creative slump, go take a nature walk!
Mindfulness is a state of being focused on the present. It’s a state in which you can experience your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. The practice of mindfulness meditation typically involves deep breathing and awareness of the body and mind (Cherry, 2023). The practice can be done in silence, with guided meditations, or with any type of music that helps you enter a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness sets our thinking into a divergent mode, which opens us to new ideas. It also improves attention, which improves our ability to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas. Mindfulness also increases our resilience and courage when faced with setbacks. A study conducted at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands demonstrated that participants who had engaged in mindfulness meditation were able to come up with a much wider range of ideas than those who had not. In addition, people who had meditated felt less negative feelings such as restlessness, nervousness, and irritation (Schootstra, Deichmann, Dolgova, 2017). Even just five minutes can make an impact on your mental state and wellbeing (Muse, 2023)!
Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that relieve stress and pain. If you’ve ever found yourself in a bad mood and even just spent a few minutes engaging in high intensity exercise you’ll know how big of an impact it has on reducing negative emotions. The less stressed we are, the more creative we are able to be. When we become stressed, our cortisol levels increase, and the executive control network becomes less active while the default mode network becomes more active. Our creativity depends on a balance between those two networks (Foy, 2022). So when you need your networks in balance to get those creative juices flowing, get moving (Korsten, 2021)!
Open Yourself to New Experiences
Researchers at the University of Bath found that the most creative participants in their studies were open to new experiences. This means they scored high on the trait of ‘novelty seeking’. While some people are naturally more inclined to seeking novelty, this tendency can be boosted in anyone. In one study, participants either considered the potential benefits of new experiences, partook in a gap filling exercise, or did nothing. When people are encouraged to embrace novelty and challenge by considering their potential benefits, they demonstrate more creativity (University of Bath, 2019). Give it a shot! Think about all the ways embracing novelty can benefit you, and watch the ideas roll in.
Schootstra, E., Deichmann, D., and Dolgova, E. (2017, August 29). Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative? Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/08/can-10-minutes-of-meditation-make-you-more-creative
Muse. (2023, April 7). The Benefits of a 5-Minute Meditation. Muse. https://choosemuse.com/blogs/news/the-benefits-of-a-5-minute-meditation#:~:text=Research%20suggests%20just%20five%20minutes,general%20wellbeing%20as%20a%20result.