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What if creative thinking was influenced by what we eat?

March 12, 2019

I recently read on LinkedIn that the most sought after skill in the workplace in 2019 is creativity. But how do you stimulate your creativity? Sometimes working in a different environment can make a difference, sometimes a quick HIIT session to boost endorphins can do the trick. But, what if creative thinking was also influenced by what we eat ?

 

Let's do a quick exercise. Remember that week you presented a new idea to your Manager that led to closing a big contract? Do you remember what you ate that week? You probably don't but you get where I'm going with this. In an article from  Harvard Business Review, Psychologist Ron Friedman explained : ''Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon''.  A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology in 2015 showed that daily consumption of 7 portions of fruits and vegetables over a period of 13 days resulted in a happier mood and greater creativity. And the reason is that fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients that trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that has been associated with happiness and creativity. Let's not forget about good fats. The brain is made up of 60 % fat so DHA, EPA and omega-3 fatty acids found in avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds are great food for the creative mind.

 

Well, there's more. When we eat matters as much as what we eat. Some of you know that I am a huge fan of Intermittent Fasting. It has nothing to do with starvation or deprivation. It is more a way to train your body to use its own fuel to boost energy and productivity. Digesting is an energy dense activity so grazing all the day may drain your energy when you need it the most - to create an impactful presentation or brainstorm for your client meeting for example. Also, when you are not eating, your body is able to get rid of damaged cells. This process is known as autophagy. From a productivity standpoint, removing junk from your body makes it easier to remain productive. Intermittent Fasting, if done properly, is good stress. Under this stress, the brain produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves brain function, promotes mental clarity and therefore boosts creativity and productivity.

 

So what to do now? Obviously, I am not suggesting doing a 16-hour fast right away to boost your creativity. But you could create your own ''creativity boosting'' eating plan. The idea is that whatever you want to change in your diet or lifestyle, you should ease into it. Here are a few suggestions to get started :

  • If you are having 3 meals per day, consider not snacking in between

  • Eat 7 portions of fruits and vegetables every day. How to achieve that ? Fill your plate with color (M&M's do not count !! :)

  • Eat oily fish, nuts, and seeds multiple times per week

  • Prolong your overnight fast by having your breakfast an hour later

  • If you are going out for lunch, plan where you'll be having lunch. By know, you probably know all the restaurants and cafes in your area anyway.

 

Needless to say, everyone is different. So before attempting something like intermittent fasting, I suggest asking a health specialist first. Other than that, eating more fruits and vegetables won't do you any harm I'm sure ;)

 

Have a creative week !

 

Amani

 

 

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