Since the dawn of time, people have looked to substances to better enable creativity. From opium in 3400 BC, laudanum for Victorian poets, absinthe, LSD and marijuana, drugs have ridden shotgun to many creative people. But, as we know, they have also caused them to crash. Hard.
So, what if art directors and copywriters could be more creative by using the chemicals already in our bodies? To avoid the stigma of shady street dealers, goth bars or weird marijuana coops with smiley guys who smell like Patchouli, why don’t we just dispense the drugs we already have inside us?
We need to be smart about how and when to unleash these mood-altering chemicals. But first, it's important to prime the receptors. That’s why rest, hydration and mindfulness are important to keep those lines open. Let’s begin.
Water. Start your day with a big glass of water. When you wake up, your brain needs to be replenished after a long night dreaming of gold pencils. Hydration will improve memory, focus and blood flow, and will flush old cells in an organ that is 75 percent water. Keep drinking every 45 minutes to keep your grey matter at its optimum creative performance.
Dopamine. This is about rewards and stimulation. It controls our appetite for pleasure and creative thinking. Dopamine pulls us to completion, to the 'thank you” page on a client presentation deck. When concepting with a partner, dopamine is the reward as we approach a creative breakthrough. Dopamine is produced by the food we eat (snack on almonds, bananas, or avocado), discovery of new things, meditation, checking off tasks or music.
Oxytocin. This powerful hormone is all about connection. Petting a dog in the office, being with friends, handshakes, or hugs. The biological side to having a good relationship with your creative partner means more oxytocin. That is why trust is so important between teams, because oxytocin can only appear if both partners have each other’s backs.
When concepting with your partner, make eye contact, don’t just be on your phone or laptop. It is important for your partner to be heard and seen. Generosity helps as well, so give something without expecting something in return. Oxytocin levels are increased not just for the person giving, but also the person receiving, and even those watching.
Endorphins. There are about 20 different types of endorphins in all of us. Some are said to be more powerful than morphine. Endorphins are released when we are in pain or stressed out. They help calm us down and take away the pain. Endorphins can also bring a euphoric feeling in certain circumstances. To increase endorphins, stock chocolate at your desk or add chilli peppers to your lunch. Spicy food and laughter bring our endorphins to the highest peak.
Serotonin. It can put you a good mood and ready to create. Serotonin levels increase through public recognition. This gives us the confidence to act on controlled impulses or toss out a riskier idea (the ones that win statues). That’s why there are no bad ideas in brainstorms. It hurts us chemically. Exercise is another simple and effective way to enhance the ability to think creatively. And, sunlight has a huge effect on serotonin as well. So, after your spicy lunch, take a 15-minute brisk walk and discuss ideas with your partner. The sun and exercise act as a multiplier to your creative thoughts.
When we use our body’s own chemicals, ideas will flourish. But creative teams should also make other routine changes. Many creatives prefer to come in late and work into the night. Yet, our serotonin levels are generally highest in the morning, which makes it an optimal time for brainstorming. And, when deadlines loom, creative teams tend to work through the night without sleep - cortisol (stress hormone) is then released, which makes us upset and contributes to stress. A negative effect on creativity is almost certain.
Talk to your partner and give these brain enhancers a try. Get up a little earlier, drink a bit more water, make a bit more eye contact, and generally try to help others. And by doing so, you will help yourself.
All easy stuff, right? Get on it, and we’ll see you during next year’s awards season.
J Barbush is VP / Creative Director, Social Media at RPA