Despite what the hacky-sack kids on the quad might lead you to believe, marijuana use does not boost creativity, according to a recent study in the journal Psychopharmacy.
The findings may come as disappointing news to those who like to indulge (hate to break it to you, Colorado), but these are the facts: Researchers separated 34 current pot smokers into three groups (a high-dose group, low-dose group, and control), and gave them creativity tests. In the end, the people in the low-dose and control groups performed about the same, while the high-dose group basically bombed. Perhaps they were too busy giggling or freaking out?
“The findings suggest that cannabis with low potency does not have any impact on creativity, while highly potent cannabis actually impairs divergent thinking," the researchers concluded.
Luckily, there are plenty of legitimate ways to stoke your imagination — and none of them requires a trip to Humboldt County. Get ready to blow your mind the healthy way.
Think on Your Feet
Yet another good reason to get off the couch: A recent Stanford study found that walking helps spur inspiration. Researchers examined the creativity levels of people while they walked versus those who stayed parked on their butts. Know what? The group that hit the road increased their creative output an average of 60 percent.
“Of course, you can use tech devices to be creative, but you also need time to incubate and have new ideas bounce into each other. You’re less likely to have an A-ha moment if you’re not focused,” due to all the tabs you have open, says Rex Jung, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico. “Tune out the distractions and let your mind go to work.”
Learn a Thing or Two
Simply put, you need to work at being creative. “The essence of creativity is the ability to combine remote bits of information in novel and original ways to form new ideas,” says Shelley H. Carson, PhD, psychology lecturer at Harvard University and author of "Your Creative Brain" ($11, Amazon.com). “You’ll help yourself become more creative if you increase your brain’s library of information. I tell my students to become an ‘information sponge.’” Carson suggests expanding your interest by reading books, magazines and websites on a variety of topics. Another way to get the juices flowing, according to Jung: practice, practice, practice. “It’s not just picking up a guitar. To be a talented musician you need to learn your instrument.”
Silence Your Inner Critic
Instead of constantly trying to critique the value of your ideas, says Carson, simply let them play out in your mind: “When you hear yourself thinking, 'That’s stupid' or 'That would never work,' give the judgment center in your brain a coffee break and allow more ideas — even the not-so-good ones — to come forward. This works, says Jung: “Studies show that people who toss out more ideas are more likely to eventually stumble across something useful. After all, not all works of art are masterpieces.”
Ask Yourself: “What if?”
Build up your brain power by looking at your surroundings and asking yourself these two little words: What if? As in: What if grass were blue? What if dogs could talk? What if I could become a guy for an entire week? “This isn’t an idle exercise,” says Carson. “It allows you to activate parts of your brain that are crucial to building creativity.”
Pick a Letter, Any Letter
In her book "Your Creative Brain," Carson offers this exercise to promote cognitive flexibility. You’ll need a timer, a pencil or pen, and a blank piece of paper. Set the timer for three minutes. Write down all the nouns you can think of that begin with a certain letter (say, G) until the timer goes off. Set the timer for three minutes again and this time, put the words you listed into two categories. Use whatever distinction you want to make: It might be good things vs. bad things, or movies ("Gone Girl," "The Godfather," "Gravity," etc.) vs. places (Georgia, Gainesville, Geneva). When you’re finished, set the timer again for three minutes, and re-categorize the words into two completely different categories. Soon you’ll be able to spout a new idea whenever you need one!