If you are looking for a magic superpower to unlock your creativity then look no further. Dark chocolate boosts creativity like no other. Here’s why.
At The Envisionary we like experiments. Especially when they involve testing the effects of chocolate on your creativity and focus. We tested the effects of eating no chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate for a week each during a 3 week period.
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Our Study To Find Out Whether Dark Chocolate Boosts Creativity
This was not a comprehensive study. The results were not scientific, but practically clear. The pool wasn’t thousands of testers, only a few people alternating the order of having chocolate or not to avoid structural bias.
We are not claiming to have found any breakthrough insight into the positive boosting effects of dark chocolate, but as pretty creative-minded people, we can tell when our minds are in a state of heightened creativity and when we are in a lull.
How? We performed some creative problem-solving tasks shortly after taking (or not taking) chocolate and noted the difference. That was it, but we can honestly say that despite thoroughly enjoying (two out of three of) the tasks, dark chocolate boosts creativity and focus, hands down, more effectively than the other two scenarios.
Our simple instant reaction experiment found that dark chocolate improved both functioning focus and creative problem-solving abilities in each participant who tried to perform a creative problem-solving task (such as coming up with a solution for a broken toaster or finding a creative way to organise a wardrobe better), than when having no chocolate as a booster.
We also found that whilst people had more energy, curiosity, and eagerness after eating milk chocolate, and whilst this energy boost led to more focused interest, it also didn’t last long, and in fact made people a bit jittery and angry when they couldn’t come up with a solution quickly.
However, with dark chocolate comes a natural zenned calm even when the challenge was to think of a solution quickly. Whilst creative solutions can be subjective as to which are best and which are worst, the clear result was in just how much easier it was to come up with ideas and solutions after eating dark chocolate.
Why Does Dark Chocolate Boost Creativity And Focus?
Our brain is geared by whatever state of mind it is in at a time, and this is shaped by chemical transmitters that affect our mood. This can be the difference between being in a state of flow and in a panic attack.
When it comes to dark chocolate we have a substance that includes all 5 key brain chemicals for optimal function, focus and mood (norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin and endorphins). Anandamide, inparticular, is unique to dark chocolate and acts as a receptor that helps our mind and body deal better with stress.
Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains more sugars (to compensate for its lower cacao content – usually between 10-30%). Those chocolate bars you find in convenience stores are full of sugar, not cacao (where the true superpower magic of chocolate is found).
Sugar gives people the illusion of a buzz. A quick up followed by a crash back down lower than we were to begin with. Sugar doesn’t boost our mind though, it just overstimulates it. This doesn’t lead us to want to focus, it just distracts us more easily. The rush of sugar slows down our brains capacity to think, hampering our memory and learning, which in turn reduces our imagination and creativity. Any spark of creative thought with a energy buzz is shortlived.
Dark chocolate, with its high concentrations of cacao, can have positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity. Dark chocolate’s high concentration of flavonoids helps keep us healthy and provides antioxidant effects.
Simply put, it works wonders. It’s certainly one of the best foods for heightening our creativity, if not the best. Yet, there’s also different types of dark chocolates, so find out which dark chocolate is healthiest for you, and if you still aren’t sure at just how well dark chocolate boosts creativity then consider this.
Why I Wrote This Article (When I Should Be Sleeping)
This article itself is somewhat proof that eating dark chocolate gives you that boost of energy and focus. Before writing this I was flagging, getting tired, and about to have an early night. I always give myself a target of one article a day, whether for this site or other publications I occasionally write for.
That target wasn’t happening today. I was just too busy earlier on and missed my usual spot of writing as soon as I woke up. Here’s a good article on why you should ‘eat the creative frog’ first thing as you wake up.
I then remembered our recent experiment and put it into action. I had two pieces of dark chocolate and washed it down with some water. 5 minutes later, I had my laptop on wondering which article to write up and then decided to create this one, not on the article list at all, but I thought that was a good thing.
It would force me to test out the theory of whether I can just write an article on a whim, with no research or insight, just as it flows, creating and forming words as I go, and all thanks to eating some dark chocolate.
It might not be the most polished article ever written, but when I consider just how little energy I had moments before to even consider a few words, never mind a whole article, then I would say the dark chocolate did its job in boosting creative output.
Dark Chocolate Has A Drawback (& How Best To Eat Dark Chocolate To Boost Creativity)
It’s not to say that dark chocolate (or any superfood for that matter) will give you endless energy. We always need to eat a balanced diet and keep consistent enough with feeding ourselves with energy (and there are also other healthy foods that can heighten your creativity as part of a balanced diet).
Dark chocolate also has another interesting chemical within it, serotonin.
For those who don’t know, serotonin carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout our body. Serotonin should be regulated for optimal function, and if you ate too much dark chocolate in one sitting you will find yourself not being more alert but heading directly to slumberland.
Serotonin relaxes us, and so when we eat a little dark chocolate it has the opposite effect, like going from sleepy to focused, as the dark chocolate triggers electrical impulses (messages) around our brain which relaxes it and helps us focus. Consider how we lose energy when stressed, this does the opposite.
However, too much and we over relax our brain and it wants to sleep. Couple that with the high magnesium content of dark chocolate, which does the same, and we will be more likely to just go into a very relaxing, deep sleep.
If that is not what we want, and we instead want to boost our creativity and alertness with dark chocolate then the best solution is to eat it in small pieces, in moderation.
In fact, consider dark chocolate as a natural boost for any task that may require you to focus, be creative, collaborative, or open-minded, or use your memory.
Why You Should Bring Dark Chocolate To Your Next Brainstorming Session
Any time I’ve helped clients with boosting their creative or innovative output within brainstorming sessions or in developing a culture of innovation at their workplace, or helped clients concept out more sustainable, human-centred or future-proofed solutions for their product, service or brand, I’ve always brought along dark chocolate.
Usually you see meetings or conventions stacked with those typical sandwich trays and sides of sweets or crisps, and of course the coffee machine. Seldom do you see brainstorm sessions kitted out with the right tools for the job, and what we eat is one of those tools.
So if you are heading to a brainstorming session, or if you are trying to work through a problem that needs a creative solution, or you are an entrepreneur trying to work out your next big idea, then consider bringing along some dark chocolate to your quest.
It amazes me how so many people look for an edge in business but don’t consider how to feed their minds in the most appropriate manner for the job, so having a few pieces of dark chocolate on hand to eat before or during these situations is one very simple way to change that.
Of course, there are many other ways to boost our creativity too before creative work sessions, such as these 5 ways to fire up creativity in the workplace.
This isn’t just for work sessions though. If we consider how our modern life is often overloaded with logical and repetitive patterns thanks to technology leading our brains too often, we can quite easily give ourselves a much-needed balance and boost of creativity by finding useful techniques and ideas like eating dark chocolate.