As I started mindfulness for myself and my children, one area always bothered me. What is the impact of mindfulness on the creative thinking process.
Its a well known fact that the key aspect of the creative thinking process is "divergent thinking". Divergent thinking often flourishes in an environment of mind wandering and that is the direct anti-thesis of a mindful existence. So does mindfulness leads to creativity?
Let us understand what creativity is? Most scientists define creativity as creating something new and useful. As we understand the neural underpinnings of the creative process, one thing that clearly stands out is the fact that the creative process requires both constraints as well as freedom.
And that is where mindfulness steps in.
Mindfulness balances the control and the freestyle networks of the brain and also strengthens the third network, the salience network that decides which centre is active when.
A meta-analysis of the creative thinking process clearly shows that the relationship of mindfulness and creativity is unequivocal.
The meta-analysis suggests that there is an influence of mindfulness techniques on divergent thinking. That is, people who engage in mindfulness exercises tend to do a better job of generating more ideas than those who do not.
The meta-analysis also explored aspects of mindfulness techniques. The aspect of mindfulness that helps people reserve judgment on thoughts was more strongly correlated with divergent thinking than the aspect that helps people become
aware of their thoughts.
There are probably two reasons for this difference. First, reserving judgment about thoughts is helpful for creativity, because it allows people to pursue new ideas further than they might otherwise. Second, the awareness of thoughts often decreases mind-wandering. Mind-wandering is bad for tasks that require focused attention, but can actually be good for divergent thinking. So, the awareness element of mindfulness may actually work against creativity a bit.
Ultimately, mindfulness has proven to be a valuable addition to many people's lives. It can make them more focused and less stressed. So what are you waiting for?
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