Alcohol and Creativity: 2 Ways to Stay Innovative after Getting Sober

Do you work in a field that requires you to be creative? Did you once rely on alcohol to expand your mind but now find yourself at a loss of original ideas now that you've stopped drinking? Read on to learn the science behind why alcohol helped you think, and learn some ways you can get your creativity back without straying off the path to sobriety. 

An Overwhelmed Mind

According to research, there are 3 networks in the brain that work together to control concentration. One of these networks monitors what is going on in your environment, another decides what events are important and directs your attention to them, and the third helps you to imagine, reflect on, and predict experiences. These three networks are supposed to work together, and when they're doing their jobs seamlessly, you can either focus your full attention on an important topic or let your mind wander if conditions permit. When your neural networks are dealing with too much information, though, they get overwhelmed and confused; you can't focus on what you need to focus on, and you can't relax your mind enough to come up with new ideas.

When you used to drink alcohol to accomplish creative tasks, the alcohol relaxed the network in charge of directing your full attention toward important tasks. Without the uncontrollable desire to think about certain topics, the other two networks in your brain would become free to produce new ideas.

Don't worry, though. You don't need alcohol to relax your neural networks. Here are two ways you can calm your concentration and regain the creativity that alcohol used to provide for you:

Buy a Day Planner and Use It

You're bombarded with thoughts all day long, and the neural networks in your mind are constantly trying to understand those thoughts and react accordingly. If you're trying to write while the television is on or trying to read while getting email notification after email notification on your phone, those poor neural networks aren't sure which stimuli they should respond to. Give them some help by scheduling your day so you only need to focus on single tasks at a time.

If you've projected in your day planner that you should eat breakfast at 8 a.m., check emails at 9 a.m., and work on a project from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., then keep your smartphone in your pocket while you eat your breakfast and turn email notifications off for the duration of project time. By designating time for each task, you limit the stimuli that your brain is forced to process at any given time, and your neural networks can more effectively distribute your brainpower. 

Try Freestyle Rapping

When a pair of Maryland researchers asked a group of freestyle rappers to show their skills while inside an MRI machine, they made an exciting discovery. It seemed that while the rappers were rapping, the neural networks in their brains that worked to focus their attention were relaxed, while the other neural networks were in overdrive. As it turns out, in order to produce their beats, the rappers' brains slowed their consciousnesses from focusing on singular thoughts and instead beefed up the amount of energy sent to the networks that allowed the rappers' minds to wander. As a result, the rappers could spontaneously produce unrehearsed, rhyming song lyrics.

To open up your mind without the need for alcohol, choose any old thing in your environment and try to come up with a catchy, fast-paced rhyme that describes it. If you can't seem to produce any lyrics, consider taking up jazz lessons instead; studies show that playing jazz music may have the same effect on the brain as freestyle rapping.

You're every bit as open minded and innovative as you used to be; you just need a different way to access your creativity. Try out the above two ways to regain creativity after getting sober and contact an alcohol rehab center, like Pacific Ridge, if you need some help fighting off the urge to drink.