The role of alpha waves and creativity

The laid-back creative: why the Relaxed Mind (Rm) is a breeding ground for good ideas

Have you ever found the answer to a problem you were trying to solve suddenly pop into your head in the bath or in the shower? If so, it’s likely that alpha waves were at play. When we’re awake but relaxed, scientists can detect waves of electrical activity lapping across the surface of the brain: these are alpha waves, and in tests it was observed that people who were deemed to be more creative than the norm have more alpha waves. Additionally, their best ideas tended to be preceded by a burst of alpha activity.

Alpha waves are a product of the Relaxed Mind – so how can we load up on them?

The brain as it pertains to creativity is something I delve into in detail in my new book, In Your Creative Element, which is published by Kogan Page. In the book I break creativity down into 62 key ingredients (or, you guessed it, “creative elements”), and the Relaxed Mind is one of them.

Relaxed mind In the book, informed by neuroscientist Ben Martynoga,  I explain that it’s still not totally clear what alpha waves actually are, or why they are such a boon to the creative mind. It could be that they shut out incoming sensory stimuli and stop you getting distracted by off-task thoughts.

As part of the creative process, alpha waves aren’t much use on their own, because you first need to have loaded the basic parameters of whatever it is you seek – the idea – into your brain. The relaxed mind is more a part of the incubation process.

The power of alpha waves is a reminder once again of how important it is to allow relaxation time into your working life. Mindfulness and meditation have become huge these past few years, and I would guess that they are reaping big dividends in creative departments all over the world.

Alpha waves and creativity

So make an effort to put your headphones on and listen to some relaxing music.

Take 15 minutes to get away from your desk from time to time. And try to embrace the idea that you don’t have to plan every single minute of every day. If you let your mind unfurl, you can explore some serious challenges in a more organic way.

Next time: The Wandering Mind and the power of daydreaming

In Your Creative Element book

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