Staying Sharp For Dummies
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Creative thinking — being able to come up with original solutions to problems — is a great way to encourage your brain to integrate information from different sources. It means not giving up when a problem seems hard but rather finding a different perspective — something unusual or unique.

Not everyone can become the next Beethoven or da Vinci, but here are some things you can do to develop your creative side:

  • Be prepared. "Fortune favors the prepared mind." This quote from famous scientist Louis Pasteur sums up what scientists now know from studying brain patterns. Different parts of the brain show more activation just before a problem is presented. This means that the brain gets ready and gathers information from different parts in order to generate a solution.

    When you're faced with a problem, the solution seldom comes from thin air. It's often the result of hours (sometimes years) of preparation. So the next time you have a problem to tackle, do your homework and prepare well. A creative solution will soon follow.

  • Shh, no more talking. Sometimes talking about a problem too much can ruin the creative process. Studies have found that the creative process works best if you're not constantly vocalizing your plans. In many ways the creative solution is an automatic process. Some even suggest that creativity has a subconscious element to it — you're creative without even thinking about being creative. So the next time you're trying to be creative, avoid talking about it and let your brain do the work.
  • Look away. Sometimes focusing on a problem for too long can reduce your creativity. Scientists have now found evidence that the brain produces an excessive amount of gamma waves, linked to excessive amounts of attention, when you focus on a problem for too long. This increase in gamma waves leads to a mental roadblock, which of course won't help you solve the problem.

    So if you've lost your creative vibe, get up and walk away from the problem. Do something else for a bit — anything else, as long as the activity isn't related to the problem you're trying to solve. Let your mind rest for a time so when you come back your brain is recharged.

Studies have found that people who use their creative skills for their work can end up struggling to balance their responsibilities at home and at work. Because the creative process isn't often confined to an office space, they often do work-related tasks outside of normal work hours. As a result, these people can experience more job pressure, which impacts social and family relationships.

If you're involved in a creative work environment, try to see the positive side of your job. Most creative people enjoy thinking about their work and coming up with creative solutions. Creative work isn't a stressful problem they have to solve so they can sleep at night. Instead, creative work gives people a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, especially when they find a solution. Remember to focus on the satisfaction you get from using your creative skills rather the potential stress of solving a problem.

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The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals dedicated to improving the health, independence, and quality of life of older people.

The Health in Aging Foundation is a national non-profit organization established in 1999 by AGS to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public.

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