I always thought that being creative was an innate gifting – you had it, or you didn’t. As I have gotten older, I realize that is not the case. All of us are creative – in different ways, in different strengths.
Research shows that creativity and smarts and ideas expand as our brain ages. We are not forgetful shrinking heads (as we all suspect when we can’t find our keys!). We are actually incredible brain expanders. We just haven’t learned to appreciate our brainiac growth!
Blogger Lynne Spreen explains it like this:
I would feel stupid except at times, I feel downright brilliant. This has probably happened to you, too. Maybe you’re listening to a younger person explain a problem at work or you’re reading an article in the news, and suddenly all the facts connect and you come up with such an awesome solution you want to call the Nobel commission. Except you don’t quite trust what happened, because only yesterday you came home from the grocery store and put the bananas in the hamper.
In her 4-part series on the aging of our brain, Spreen takes us on a journey through the aging brain. Based on the book The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain by Barbara Strauch (science editor for the NYTimes), each part of the series teaches all of our aging brains a thing or two!
Below are my favorite excerpts from her series.
There’s magic in our brains!
When the younger brain needs to solve a problem, it tends to use the factory settings. If it’s a logic problem, the left brain gets a workout. Creativity? The right side lights up. Young brains are so powerful, this works fine.
However, when you’re older, your brain realizes that in order to do the best job possible, it’s going to have to reach across from one hemisphere and borrow circuits from the other. Thus, both sides of the brain are engaged in a task where in the past, only one side would have been. In addition to pure processing help, there may be an almost magical benefit from this strategy.
As we age, and the two sides of our brains work together, we are able to see bigger patterns, have bigger thoughts, reaching – according to one researcher – the level of art.
Daydreaming is a good thing!! Yippee for us!
Of course, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re more easily distracted and more likely to lose focus as we age. This is because as you get older, new information comes into the part of your brain that’s good at daydreaming.
On the plus side, some scientists think that the tendency to daydream, combined with the ability to use both sides of the brain in an integrated way, might result in better problem solving, deeper insights, and more creativity.
Studies verify that we may have our smartness peak at age 70 – say what?
According to the Seattle Longitudinal study, our brains are awesome after forty. Seattle tracked the same 6000 people for forty years, finding that people reached their highest cognitive ability from age forty through seventy.
Spreen’s last post was so meaty that I couldn’t find a line or two to quote, ’cause I wanted to copy and paste the whole dang thing. But here’s a little piece…
It seems you might be able to build up your brain so that, if and when you get dementia, its effects will be diminished or delayed until you have time to die of something else.
And there’s your taste of a whole lot of great stuff – research and insights and, most of all, encouragement!
We are not in decline. Rather we may still be in an upward trajectory that could continue for decades!
If you want to go deeper and don’t want to read the whole book, this is the series to dive into! Truth be told: after writing this post, I now wanna read the whole book!! What about you?
Click on the book cover to purchase it on Amazon.com.
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