Fitness and Mental Creativity
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This morning, I sat at my desk, hoping to write before my morning run. But I couldn’t find the words. Most mornings, I’m up at four—a time when lucidity is greatest. It didn’t happen today. Words failed me. So, I closed my laptop and went for a run. As I made my way around Central Park’s Reservoir, ideas started to flow. The plot of my novel became clearer and the sentence I couldn’t form earlier, populated my brain. For several loops, the sentence became my running mantra. Eager to see the chapter unfold, I sped home.
What Happens To Increase Mental Clarity During Workouts?
It’s all those wonderful feel-good chemicals—dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine coursing through the brain. Dr. John Ratey, Clinical Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, talks about a protein called BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which acts on neurons in the brain. Studies have found that BDNF has a direct effect on brainpower, improving cognition, learning, and mental acuity. The effect can be felt immediately, even while you’re exercising.
Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Siemens, Aurora Photos
Natural Environment Is Best
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, grappling with a storyline or any creative writing project, lace up and head outdoors. Find a peaceful surrounding—park, beach, mountain trails anywhere away from noise and distraction. Studies have shown brief interactions with nature produce a noticeable increase in cognitive control.
The Greater the Intensity the Greater Creativity
Pick up your pace. Get the blood and oxygen flowing to your brain and feel the effect of BDNF opening your mind. The residual effects of your workout can last for as long as two hours. So take advantage of the creative juices and head back to your laptop.
Oh, before I end this post, make fitness a habit and your writing will reap the benefits of exercised-induced creativity.