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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


Relationship Coaches and Dating Coaches

Do I need to hire a coach to learn to be more creative with my dating profile?


Dating or relationship coaches can be very helpful in adding creativity to your dating profile, if you really have no other alternative and can afford the service. However, I always urge people to try and tap into their hidden well of creativity. We all have the capacity to be creative if you know the secret and work at it a little. Enhanced creativity can help you to make over your profile and simply communicate better with other daters… it’s also a trait that others find appealing.

The secret to creativity is simple – install the right software so you can effectively flex your hardware. This combination of proper software running on well functioning hardware will make you extremely creative and productive. Software refers to what we put into our bodies (and hence our minds), whereas hardware refers to how our brains are naturally hardwired to perceive and assimilate information. People have control over both of these factors, so creativity levels are actually flexible. The goal is to manipulate our software and hardware to our advantage.

Installing the Right Software
There are four critical pieces of software you need to promote creativity and a well functioning brain (the hardware). Strive to maintain all four in your arsenal. Here are the basics:

  • Nutrition – We require nutrients and energy for concentration on conceptual tasks, especially those demanding problem-solving and creativity. Breakfast especially provides those nutritional necessities and prevents symptoms such as headache, fatigue, restlessness and sleepiness from competing with outcomes. Maintaining proper nutrition provides key benefits to brain chemistry as well.
  • Sleep – Without proper quality of sleep, people do not properly function. Creativity requires efficient and effective storage and integration of information. Two stages of sleep are crucial for different aspects of memory consolidation. Periods of slow-wave sleep are very long and produce a recall and amplification of memory traces. Ensuing episodes of REM (dream) sleep, which are very short, trigger the expression of genes to store what was processed during slow-wave sleep. Sleep allows us to transform short-term memory to long-term memory, and by so doing, synthesizes new information with old information. And we shall see later, synthesis becomes a vital part of the creative process.

Healthy sleep also seems to coincide with a healthy job outlook. In a study scheduled for publication in the October issue of the Journal of Management, researchers surveyed employees of a southeastern regional office of a large national insurance company. Each day for three weeks in February 2005, the employees logged onto a web site and rated their level of job satisfaction at the end of the workday. They also answered questions about sleep problems and emotions they were feeling. The results showed employees reported higher levels of job satisfaction if they had slept soundly the night before, and lower levels if they had experienced insomnia. Furthermore, researchers found that women were more sensitive to insomnia’s effects on job satisfaction and emotions.

Individuals and their employers should take steps to improve quality of sleep to improve job satisfaction as well as overall well-being. You can improve your sleep quality by exercising regularly, limiting consumption of caffeine and alcohol, and improving general sleep habits.

  • Avoid pessimism – The power of positive thinking to improve health and well-being has been endorsed for years. Optimism is important; the general principle to remember is that negative thoughts lead to negative results and positive thoughts lead to positive results. In business, the “can-do-attitudes” commonly if not always prevail; while the “glass-is-half-empty” mindset more often than not is never supported. Moreover, new research suggests that embracing positive thinking is indeed good but even more important is simply avoiding negative thinking. In other words, just because a person does not expect good fortune, you can’t assume therefore that the person expects bad fortune. Optimism is not the opposite of pessimism per se, and more than having optimism, your overall levels of well-being and energy will be higher if you avoid pessimism.

To that end, use only positive forms of thoughts and statements. For example, say, “I want to win,” instead of, “I don’t want to lose” or “I have to win, I can’t afford to lose.” Avoid words such as no, never, don’t, can’t and impossible. Statements like, “I can’t do it,” shouldn’t exist in your world. Eliminate these words from your vocabulary, at least so far as messages you send yourself, coworkers and customers. Every time you use one of these words, immediately rephrase or reframe the statement into a positive one. For example, change, “I can’t do it” to “I’ll work at it.”

  • Education – The more you know, the further you’ll go. That phrase is cliché but accurate in terms of creativity. The “Father of Creativity” E. Paul Torrance identified a total of 384 studies which examined the effectiveness of creativity training. The majority of these studies have concluded that creativity can be enhanced through formal training. Perhaps one of the most extensive and classic studies on the effects of creativity training was conducted by psychologists Parnes and Noller. These investigators long ago discovered that students enrolled in a four semester sequence of college courses which focused on awareness-development, creative problem-solving and creative analysis processes scored significantly higher than a control group on measures of mental ability, creative application of academic subject matter, non-academic achievement in areas calling for creative performance and certain individual characteristics associated with creativity. In fact, the overwhelming results of this experimental program eventually led to establishment of a permanent program at the State University College at Buffalo called the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC).

Education in any form – from formal training to merely staying in touch with current events – also provides you with more content that can be used creatively. Knowledge is the building blocks of creative output. Consider this task --

Which of these words do you think connect to both WET and ARMADILLO?








The more educated you are, the easier it is to find associations between the target words. For example, “Texas” doesn’t seem to connect immediately to both “Wet” and “Armadillo.” But, education empowers you to recognize that Texas has both armadillos and wetlands… so there’s a creative connection between “Wet” and “Armadillo.”  By the way, Texas may seem to be a desert, but it has two broad categories of wetlands, interior wetlands and coastal wetlands! Interior wetlands include bottomland hardwood forests and playas. Playas are small lakes and ponds formed when seasonal rain and snowfall collects in naturally-occurring depressions. In cultivated areas, farmers modify playas for water conservation. Coastal wetlands include salt and freshwater marshes, forested scrub and tidal flats. Armadillos prefer wetland habitats!

There’s more…

Maintaining proper software is not enough to encourage creativity. You must also learn to flex your hardware. Therefore, we’ll explore this aspect of creativity in a future installment!


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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