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How a Good Mood Ramps Up Creativity

A positive mood can enhance problem-solving and innovation.

You want to be a little more creative?

Need to solve a problem or come up with a clever idea at work? Ready to move a little easier through the little challenges that can pose big problems during your day?

Then, take a minute, to watch a funny film clip or listen to music that makes you feel good. Contrary to being a time waster, taking time to do something that boosts your mood could make you more creative and efficient. A positive mood, scientists say, is actually the key to solving a problem or coming up with innovative ideas.

Bigwigs from the University of Western Ontario manipulated the moods of the participants in a study by playing music and video clips. Then, study participants were asked to recognize a pattern. Those that were happier did a better job of completing the challenge than those who were feeling sad or neutral.

“If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you do that,” says researcher Ruby Nadler in the study published in Psychological Science.

Quick ways to shift your mood

Music can be a fast way to change your mood. Reading a comic strip or love letter is a good bet too. Or plug into You-Tube and find a feel-good video. Anything that makes you laugh will also shift you physiology to a better-feeling place. If you can’t find a way to smile, fake it. Plant a grin on your face until it takes hold and feels more natural. Scientists call this “facial feedback hypothesis” and say even a fake smile can help us manage distress better.

Visualization first thing in the morning can be another way to invoke good feelings. Start by sitting still and quiet. Take some deep breaths and imagine a stress-free day where things go your way. You feel energized and engaged and good about the work you’ve done and the time you’ve spent. Your commute is smooth and quick. Feel the emotions around that as if you were actually experiencing those things. Then, begin your day. Visualization can ease stress, help build confidence, diminish pain, and contribute to calmer feelings. This not only makes you feel better in the moment, but it also helps lay a foundation of positive energy for the day ahead.

Finally, the most powerful way to boost your mood and feel more creative and alive is to act compassionately and kindly. Mow your neighbor’s yard. Cook a casserole for a friend in need. Do something for your spouse to make their life a little easier. Donate money to your favorite cause or simply look someone who served you in the eye and say “thank you.”

When we connect through compassion we experience what researchers call a “helper’s high.” We feel a rush of emotion that leaves us feeling happy, more connected, and calm. Often we can experience those feelings again, even when the good deed is long done, just by reflecting on the memory.

Use these mood-boosters next time you’re looking for that unique solution to the work problem, searching for the next Big Idea, or even a parenting strategy that will help you skate through the next tantrum. By first sculpting a better mood, you’re more likely to tap into your innate creativity and see possibilities where once you saw limitations.

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