In order to boost your creativity, your body and mind should be operating at peak efficiency.

Try these brain-juicers to optimize your mental and physical well-being:

1. Make sure you exercise.

Exercise juices up the brain with nutrients in the form of glucose. The more glucose it uses, the more active the brain. It increases oxygen in the bloodstream that is delivered to the brain, releases endorphins into the bloodstream (the runner’s high) and increases nerve connections to the brain.

Any rhythmic activity such as running, walking, swimming, scrubbing, chopping quiets mindful chatter, allowing your imagination to flow. Einstein got so many ideas while showering he installed waterproof material to record his ideas. My favourite forms of exercise are walking, hiking and yoga.

2. Open your heart

“The heart is a primary generator of rhythm in your body, influencing brain processes that control your nervous system, cognitive function and emotion. More coherent heart rhythms facilitate brain function, allowing you more access to your higher intelligence so you can improve your focus, creativity, intuition and higher-level decision-making. When you’re in heart-rhythm coherence, you perform at your best – what athletes call being in the zone. You feel confident, positive, focused and calm yet energized.” —HeartMath institute

HeartMath teaches a simple “coherence” technique for de-stressing, activating intuitive insight and heart intelligence:

Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest to help keep your attention in the heart area.

Step 2: Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply, but normally, and imagine that your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you.

Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. This is the most important step.

3. Listen to music

“Music is one of the greatest ways to enter “mind-wandering mode,” which can unlock creativity”  —Daniel J. Levitin author of This Is Your Brain On Music

Music forms new neural networks in the brain, and  influences the process of thinking and learning. Based on a study at the University of Helsinki, (2015) research shows that classical music has a tempo-regulating effect on genes responsible for generating feelings of pleasure.

Participants in the study listened to Mozart, and scientists noted greater improvement of brain function in those who were already familiar with the music compared with those who were not.

Dopamine secretion and synaptic transmissions are aided by listening to classical music, the study concluded. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is conveyed through connections made through the synaptic transmissions.

See also “Here’s Proof Music Can Do More Than Just Make You Feel Good” on The Huffington Post 

4. Try Aromatherapy to activate your brain.

One day, as I was falling asleep, while listening to endless speeches at a conference, my brain suddenly perked up when I caught a whiff of lemon from someone’s cologne. I immediately felt alert and found it much easier to pay attention to the presenter. I discovered aromatherapy really is useful and I have used it ever since revitalize or to relax.

Energizers include peppermint, cypress and lemon. Relaxants: ylang ylang, geranium and rose. creativity and aromatherapy PsychologyToday.comy seem to be linked.

A few drops of essential oils in your bath or in a diffuser will do the trick. You can also put a drop or two in a cotton ball or hanky and inhale. One caveat for the workplace; make sure no-one is allergic to the oils before you use them.

5. Feed your brain

Vitamin B is essential for brain power. Sources include peas, beans, liver, kidney, chicken and eggs. Boron is essential for memory and attention. Sources include apples, pears and green leafy vegetables. See also Dr Amen’s Seven Simple Brain-Promoting Nutritional Tips

You also need to feed your brain with diverse stimuli.

7. Hang out at a cafe

Some studies say coffee helps creativity and others say it hinders it. A new study shows that moderate noise level in busy cafés perks up your creative cognition.  As the researchers write in their paper, “Instead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one’s comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.” The full study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

I personally find cafés too noisy. I feel best in forests, mountains, and light airy rooms with high ceilings.

8. Capture your daydreams.

Mind wandering, or daydreaming facilitates creative incubation. Walk away from your problem, literally. Let your mind wander, then track what you were daydreaming about. Look for clues in the images and thoughts of your daydream to find a solution to your problem. You can also capure your daydreams by keeping a journal.

9. Play with passion!

You can’t do great work without personal fulfillment. When people are growing through learning and creativity, they are much more fulfilled and give 127% more to their work. Delight yourself and you delight the world. Remember what you loved to do as a child and bring the essence of that activity into your work. This is a clue to your genius; to your natural gifts and talents. da Vinci, Edison, Einstein and Picasso all loved to play and they loved to explore.

10. Build a brain trust.

Surround yourself with inspiring people from a wide variety of fields who encourage you and stimulate your creativity. Read magazines from a wide variety of fields. Make connections between people, places and things, to discover new business opportunities, and to find solutions to your problems. This is easy to do in the age of social media. For face to face interactions, host a salon.

See also Art of Conversation: World Café, Salons & Social Change

Updated May 12, 2015

Buy these books from Amazon.

Your Creative Brain

Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life (Harvard Health Publications) 1st edition by Carson, Shelley published by Jossey-Bass

I discovered Carson and her Harvard research on the brain while listening to Paul Kennedy’s CBC podcast about the imagination (which is excellent by the way) and since I can’t get enough about creativity and neuroscience, I bought her book. She explains the neuroscience of the creative process provides activities to activate “brainsets.” These include reasoning, connecting, envisioning, and evaluating.

Disciplined Dreaming

Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity
By Josh Linkner

Linkner distills his years of experience in business and jazz — as well as hundreds of interviews with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and artists — into a 5-step process that will make creativity easy for you and your organization. The methodology is simple, backed by “proven results.”

This book provides an easy-to-follow framework,  and some fresh thinking about organizational creativity, useful to anyone who needs to manage the creative process beyond brainstorming. I particularly like the chapter on preparing “The Creativity Brief” which has some great discovery questions to help managers and teams define the creativity challenge.

Put Creativity to Work in your organization:

Click to learn more

See also:

What is Creativity? (And why is it a crucial factor for business success?)

Can Art Inspire Creativity in the Workplace?

The Must-Have Skills You Need to Compete in the New Future of Work