Creativity and mental health

Creativity linked to mental health:

 

Creativity linked to mental health

Creativity linked to mental health

 

New research shows a possible explanation for the link between mental health and creativity. By studying receptors in the brain, researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have managed to show that the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia.

High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual pr bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.

“We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia,” says associate professor Fredrik Ullén from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.

Just which brain mechanisms are responsible for this correlation is still something of a mystery, but Dr Ullén conjectures that the function of systems in the brain that use dopamine is significant; for example, studies have shown that dopamine receptor genes are linked to ability for divergent thought. Dr Ullén’s study measured the creativity of healthy individuals using divergent psychological tests, in which the task was to find many different solutions to a problem.

“The study shows that highly creative people who did well on the divergent tests had a lower density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people,” says Dr Ullén. “Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental illness and creativity.”

The thalamus serves as a kind of relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

“Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus,” says Dr Ullén, and explains that this could a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill.

“Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box,” says Dr Ullén about his new findings.

 

Source:  sciencecodex.com

News will kill you

News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier:

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether

 

News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether. In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

News misleads. Take the following event (borrowed from Nassim Taleb). A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That’s the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

News has no explanatory power. News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we’d expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That’s not the case.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.

News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw. We become prone to overconfidence, take stupid risks and misjudge opportunities. It also exacerbates another cognitive error: the story bias. Our brains crave stories that “make sense” – even if they don’t correspond to reality. Any journalist who writes, “The market moved because of X” or “the company went bankrupt because of Y” is an idiot. I am fed up with this cheap way of “explaining” the world.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it’s worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory’s capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore. Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It’s not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It’s because the physical structure of their brains has changed.

News wastes time. If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you’re at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week. Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if news consumption, at least partially contributes to the widespread disease of depression.

News kills creativity. Finally, things we already know limit our creativity. This is one reason that mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age. Their brains enjoy a wide, uninhabited space that emboldens them to come up with and pursue novel ideas. I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.

Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

I have now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Employee Brain on Stress Quash Creativity Competitive Edge

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge:

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge

Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity And Competitive Edge

Right to the point. “Work stress is a major problem,” David Ballard PsyD,  He heads up the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. Work place stress is not news. But how companies are handling the issue is worth a gander. A recent APA study found only 58 percent of employees said they have the resources necessary to manage stress. Furthermore, a 2012 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey found only 11 percent of organizations have specific stress reduction programs in place. “Even those organizations that do have stress management programs generally focus on individual-level training and resources to help stressed-out employees,” says Ballard, “but they neglect preventive and organizational-level approaches that may be more effective in the long run.” With more than forty percent of American workers reporting chronic workplace stress, the long-term impact of stress and its influence on the human creative condition and business can be detrimental, says Rick Hanson PhD,  a California based neuropsychologist and author of Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. “As ten-thousand studies have shown, when you are chronically stressed, you’re less able to be at your best. Particularly when you’re talking about a knowledge economy which really places a high premium on creativity,”. Chronic stress degrades a long list of capabilities with regard to creativity and innovation, notes Hanson. It’s harder to think outside of the box, nimbleness and dexterity take a hit, and the response to sudden change is more difficult to manage. Hanson has been examining the impact of stress on the brain and well-being, while working in the trenches in corporate America and as the co-founder of The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. Hanson explains, stress is like fine sand being drizzled into the brain. It might keep working, but if you dump enough sand in there, it’ll freeze up at some point. Beyond heading into the deep freeze, he says neuroscience is now showing us that the cumulative consequences of stress can be a dire thorn in the side of business innovation. “Even a small amount of stress is noisy in the brain,” says leadership consultant, David Rock, the author of Your Brain at Work and the co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute. The organization partnered on a survey of 6000 workers, and found that only ten percent of people do their best thinking at work. Expanded technology, multitasking and a competitively demanding (or threatening) company culture, can add to the noise in the brain which crushes creativity. “Threat makes you productive, but not necessarily effective.  It can make you productive if you don’t have to think broadly, widely or deeply,” says Rock. “A threat response, which we might think of as stress, increases motor function, while it decreases perception, cognition and creativity.” Ultimately, on the surface, stress might seem a good kick starter for productivity. But getting the creative juices flowing has more to do with the engagement of the employee and his or her disposition, notes Rock. “What neuroscience is telling us, is that creativity and engagement are essentially about making people happier,” explains Rock who adds, “It’s what is called, a “toward state” in the brain.” In that “state,” Rock explains, workers feel curious, open minded, happier and interested in what they are doing. A huge component of creating that state is to quiet the mind, and that means reducing stress. Rock discusses the neuroscience behind stress reduction here in my recent post at WorkLifeNation.com, Neuroscience Might Be New “it-strategy” to Boost Employee Creativity. Stress management programs in most companies, if they exist at all, are more of an ancillary stepchild in the wellness agenda. As David Ballard PhD said, workplace flexibility, mental healthcare coverage and on-site fitness offerings certainly help to reduce stress, but it’s not enough. Perhaps a company will do more to help employees better manage stress, if the end-game is a more creative and engaged employee.