“Slow down, you move too fast; you’ve got to make the mornin’ last…” –Simon and Garfunkel

Maybe you have a character that you’re not quite feeling yet; or maybe a seemingly limited role needs to be filled out to make it more compelling; perhaps the production needs a healthy dose of inspiration overall. Whatever the case, it’s an actor’s job to breathe life into his or her roles–and an essential ingredient for any actor’s brilliance is creativity. Now, everyone has their own style of tapping into his or her imagination and originality, but what does the latest science have to say about accessing that ever-precious creative energy?

According to several recent studies, many people start their mornings by inadvertently smothering the very conditions that promote a flexible and receptive mind. That is, they rush out of bed, hurriedly ready themselves for the day, deal with a stressful commute, maybe check out the daily news which features an array of discouraging and tragic story lines, and then pour themselves a cup of coffee so they can get to the task of tackling problems with their creativity.

Instead of rushing out of bed, neurologists and cognitive psychologists are encouraging us all to slow down and pay attention to our groggy moments. Researchers Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks have shared findings in the journal Thinking and Reasoning, reporting that imaginative insights are most likely to pop into mind when we are sleepy and our thoughts are cloudy. It is at these times that mental processes that normally curb sidetracked thoughts are at their weakest. It’s true, not every thought will be considered inspired when you’re sleepy, but your chances of having unexpected valuable thoughts are increased at these times. Groggy people’s “more diffuse attentional focus,” they write, inclines them to “widen their search through their knowledge network. This widening leads to an increase in creative problem solving.” So, you can have a new appreciation for these hazy moments by both allowing them to take their natural courses and, most importantly, pay attention to them. Slow down with your morning and nightly routines, and consider keeping a notepad and pen available to take advantage of your inspirations.

How does a hectic commute interfere with creativity? The stress hormone cortisol can cause harm to myelin, the fatty material coating brain cells. When the myelin sheaths become damaged, the signals that transmit between neurons are slowed, hampering the potential for creative ideas. Allowing enough time to travel, and making a conscious decision to relax and go with the flow on your commute may benefit your creativity.

And while reading the news is a useful way to learn about what’s happening in the world, you may want to read it after you’ve done your creative thinking. A study published in the journal Psychological Science discovered that participants who watched video clips that aroused sad feelings (like news of an earthquake) were less able to solve problems creatively than those who watched cheerful videos (like a laughing baby). Researcher Ruby Nadler and her co-authors concluded that a positive mood actually intensifies “cognitive flexibility,” as opposed to a negative mind frame. You may want to start your day checking into humorous or positive news outlets.

So what about drinking coffee? Does it hinder the imagination as well? Actually, no. Coffee indeed appears to help the creative process along. The caffeine both increases alertness, and escalates the brain’s level of a motivation-arousing neurotransmitter called dopamine. When–alas–a great idea comes to mind, it’s the dopamine that gives a sense of accomplishment as well.

So slow it down a little, and listen to yourself. You are the energy that runs the Hollywood engine; use that energy wisely.

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