Concentrate, Then Stop Thinking To Generate More Creative Insights

When we experience an “aha!” moment, our brains experience very high gamma activity as new neural networks are formed. Psychology Today writer Dan Goleman offers some advice on triggering creative ideas.

Photo by Edyta Pawlowska/Shutterstock.

What’s the best way to mobilise this brain ability? It’s first to concentrate intently on the goal or problem, and then relax into stage three: let go. The converse of letting go — trying to force an insight — can inadvertently stifle creative breakthrough. If you’re thinking and thinking about it, you may just be getting more tense and not coming up with fresh ways of seeing things, let alone a truly creative insight.

So to get to the next stage, you just let go. Unlike the intense focus of grappling with a problem head-on, the third stage is characterised by a high alpha rhythm, which signals mental relaxation, a state of openness, of daydreaming and drifting, where we’re more receptive to new ideas. This sets the stage for the novel connections that occur during the gamma spike.

That may explain why my eureka moments often happen when I’m on holidays. Share your “aha” experiences — whether they’ve happened at similar moments or not — in the comments.

New Insights on the Creative Brain [Psychology Today]

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