Saturday, September 19, 2009

Theta Thinking – That Creative Wonderland

Ever not been able to stop thinking? What about mental fatigue and exhaustion? Are these familiar for you? Or what about writer’s block or any other problem-solving dilemma? Theta state thinking is a potential answer to these frustrations. A colleague recently asked me what differences I’d noticed as I decreased my coffee consumption from three a day to only five a week. Interesting. I hadn’t actually pondered what difference it had made. Needless to say, I did feel a little more peaceful. And that is also one of the benefits of theta state thinking, a state of very much slowed brain activity that allows for much more creativity, emotional connectedness and much, much more.

The trouble with most of the world these days, especially in the busyness of life, is we get trapped in another thinking zone far too much; that of beta state thinking. This is the thinking that helps us problem solve and think actively. It’s the fastest state of brain activity.

But, when we have too much of a good thing i.e. beta state thinking, we get stressed, and that’s only the start of it. Introverts, interestingly enough, have more of an issue with this than extroverts because they tend to think and internalise more.[1]

There is also the relaxed state of alpha state thinking between beta and theta states, but theta thinking is even more entrancing, especially around creativity. (A fourth and slowest state, delta state thinking, describes the patterns of brain activity when we’re fully asleep.)

Theta state thinking is a wonderful device almost as soon as we discover it. Whenever we’ve woken from a micro-nap we’ve immediately been in that alert-like trance that’s wonderful to experience. We feel freshly inspired, observant, awake to the deeper self, open to truth and light. We have a free mind for that moment or two afterwards. This is us quickly emerging from theta state through alpha state to eventual beta state thinking again.

This state is “when creativity is highest, because the obstacles of rationality and objectivity no longer restrict you.”[2] It’s at this state we’re more vulnerable to inspiration and come what may—a creative wonderland—certainly with regard to the presence of stimuli to feed the mind in its creativity. We, therefore, set a problem before ourselves...

How do we get there?

Thomas Edison realised the power of theta state thinking and developed a unique technique to exploit it for problem solving. He would balance so his head and hands were over a bowl of water and he’d have pebbles in his clenched fists. As soon as he relaxed enough to release the pebbles they’d hit the water and the water would splash his face, waking him enough to experience the creative wonderland thinking state—unto the creative problem-solving he sought to experience.

So, for us also, if we wish to be more creative, we too can learn to take little naps when we feel tired. The trick is finding that thing we can safely drop that will stimulate the senses enough to wake us as we’re dropping off. Deep relaxation almost to the point of sleep will also get us there.

Certainly this exercise can help us to experience the more deeply relaxing alpha state thinking too. Certainly, too, we can release the pressure on our minds from the overweening presence of beta state thinking that plagues many of us most of the time.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[2] Dr. Frank Lawlis, The ADD Answer: How to Help Your Child Now (London, England: Viking/Penguin, 2004), p. 6.

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