Coffee vs. Alcohol: Which Substance Increases Your Creativity More?

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Are you more coffee or alcohol dependent? Chances are, the answer depends on your mood.

For most of us, coffee and alcohol have become physically and socially essential crutches, ehm, tools, in our daily lives. Now, a recent piece by Mikael Cho over at Medium breaks down how coffee can lead to productivity, and alcohol to creativity.

Comparing the chemical reactions induced by coffee and alcohol, the article probes which of the two substances are better for creativity. As it turns out, your search for inspiration may be a great excuse to pop open that bottle of wine. Alcohol can lower your working memory, allowing you to think beyond the constant barrage of minute and irrelevant details vying for your attention.

Alcohol also activates a part of your brain called the anterior superior temporal gyrus, which researchers have observed displays increased activity right before insight strikes. While you may reach for an alcoholic drink just to unwind at the end of the day, relaxation also promotes creative thinking, which might explain why some artists also tend to enjoy other relaxing drugs, like bubble baths.

Once you’re ready to turn that ground-breaking idea into a detailed actionable plan, coffee will be your best friend. Coffee seems to provide that critical burst of energy right when you start fading, but actually works by just tricking your mind into thinking you have more energy than you actually do. The caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine receptors in your brain; uninhibited these receptors usually sound the alarm when your body is low on energy.

Before downing that whole pitcher of margaritas or indulging in a fourth latte, remember that overconsumption can quickly morph these benefits into consequences. So in moderation, we propose taking Ernest Hemingway’s classic quote “write drunk, edit sober,” one step further with “write drunk, edit sober with coffee.”

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