Adam Atkinson, our very own Mindful Creative, believes you could be dramatically more creative than what you already are? Here’s how…
Begin the evening with 7 bottles of larger from the agency’s free bar, add a load of trans-fat fast food into the mix on your way home, and end off the night with a generous 1 am bedtime. Then come into the office the next day and pick up that pitch brief you have a deadline for that requires ‘award-winning’ creative ideas (today). Boom! Sound familiar?
As a creative industry, we pride ourselves on ‘being creative leaders.’ Yet, we don’t embody, practise or teach scientifically-proven values that can lead to better creative productivity.
Rather, it’s the other way around. We’ll demand a high-level of creativity, but push a lifestyle that sits in contrast to what could dramatically boost creative thinking. We’ve all seen Madmen…
If you’re in the industry and you’re creating ads or experiences, the likelihood is that you consider yourself a ‘creative’ first and foremost. But in my opinion, that’s an endpoint. Creativity is a product of our brain and our body working effectively in symbiosis.
So, what if we considered ourselves to be mindfully healthy first?
Now that’s a starting point. A point from which a high level of creativity can blossom. What about if, instead of focusing on being a ‘master creative’, you first focused on being a master of your body? Both physiologically and psychologically. Or if we looked at it from a different perspective, you used your body to master your mind…?
Humour me for a moment…
What if you’re only touching upon the possibilities of how creative your mind can be, and you could be dramatically more creative than what you already are?
What if, as an industry, we became proud ambassadors and teachers of psychological and physiological ways to enhance creative function?
This is a subject I’ve studied, thought about (one could say meditated on) and put into practise for some time now. From my personal perspective, the positive results have really changed my belief and view on the ‘creative process’. Let me give you two examples of steps I’ve taken that have dramatically helped enhance my creative performance.
1. I was a f#ing scatterbrain (psychological)
I always had a bit of a scattered mind because I wanted to do a million creative things at once. This would inevitably mean I lacked good clarity and focus, which ultimately always lead me down the path of inefficiency.
I recognised this in myself, and so to change the pattern, I consciously started paying attention to clearing my mind, grounding my energy, and beginning the day with mindfulness meditation and gratitude.
My 10 min morning routine is:
1) Mindfulness Meditation
Box-breathing through the nose: 5 seconds in, 5 seconds hold, 5 seconds out. Thoughts come, thoughts go. Focusing on the count.
2) Then Gratitude
Journaling and daily goal setting…
Overtime I’ve felt and noticed my creative focus and productivity improving. My ability to handle multiple tasks, and thus stressors, is far better, and I’ve also become more tolerant since practicing this mindfulness routine. So, it became a mandatory practice. For me it’s now a non-negotiable. Even if I can only get it in for a few minutes, I make sure it happens.
For example, I sometimes cycle to our agency in Richmond. After showering I sit in the toilet cubicle, legs crossed on top of the toilet lid and perform my routine. Breathe in. Breathe out… and so it goes.
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to connect creative pathways within the brain, allowing access to a deeper state of mind.
In contrast to this, I can now categorically tell a difference if I miss my morning routine. My tolerance level is much lower meaning I get stressed and overwhelmed easier, which therefore effects my creative performance.
As Buddha would say:
“I am stressed because I have so much to do. I am going to need to meditate for longer.”
As for the gratitude journaling element. Finding joy from the little things in life, like being grateful for my legs so I can cycle to the agency, means I begin every day happy due to something so simple. And a happy mind is a productive mind.
If you would like to know more, The 6-minute diary is a good place to start for beginners with regards to mindfulness.
2. I eat fat to think fast (physiological)
It’s been widely debated that the brain works better functioning on ketones as an energy source than it does on carbs. Ever heard of the Keto Diet (who hasn’t)? Well, that’s where its name came from. Ketones are produced when your body breaks down fat for energy. And the brain LOVES THEM. They’re like rocket fuel for your grey mass.
Ever woken up, skipped breakfast and began focusing on a task. Think back… Did you feel sharper with less brain fog?
Guess what? You’re working in a fasted state after a long sleep. Hello Ketones!
The body is turning to fat stores for fuel. It’s breaking the fat down, releasing ketones into the blood and the brain is lapping them up instead of the ‘brain-fog’ carbs from that bowl of Shreddies it usually depends on.
I’m speaking VERY broadly here in terms of science and facts. Purely to lay a foundation to my point. And I’m not suggesting we all need to switch to a Keto Diet to be more creative. Or that this is a 100% proven method to become a creative guru. Rather, I’m challenging the thought in order to use this understanding as a window of opportunity. A tool, if you will, in our creative arsenal.
So next time you hit a creative roadblock, instead of taking your frustration out on a box of doughnuts or a pizza, the typical ‘feel-good’ food, try skipping breakfast and fasting till lunch. Work on the brief within that period and take note of what happens with your focus and how your brain is firing. I bet the creative juices will be flowing!
Or simply be aware of your carb intake every day. Try lowering it whilst slightly increasing healthy fats, this will help you avoid the inevitable spike in insulin which will promptly deliver a bout of lethargy.
They don’t put bog-standard petrol in Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car. They give it the best possible fuel to function at its highest performance. We should look at our creative minds in the same way.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love to knock back the pints. I’m a Geordie, it’s in our DNA. And I’ve frequented the agency’s free bar many times for many years. That’s why I’m able to speak from experience. But having an appreciation for ‘creating creativity through creating health’ and understating how to utilise nutrition effectively has led to a considerable difference in my creative output, productivity and focus.
For more on keto, ketones and the brain? I’d recommend skimming over Dr berg’s YouTube channel. It’s a library of information.
If we’re supposed to be seen as the industry with experts in creativity, I believe we should be embracing and applying what develops creativity at a foundation level:
• Creating health – physically and mentally.
• Making mindfulness time part of a regular workday.
• Providing ’smart fat’ breakfasts instead of insulin spiking cheap cereals.
• And, above all, open doors to educate, discuss and simply try.
As with all these things, trying through an actual application is the best form of proof for oneself. But it’s a fascinating area and one that is potentially limitless in its possibilities to unlock better creative performance. I, for one, will continue to take huge pride and daily commitment in using my body to master my mind in an endless quest to try and be a better ‘creative’.