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Chasing Life

It’s easy to forget that we are part of nature. But, we are living, breathing organisms. We are walking biomes.

This season, Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the science of YOU by traversing the boundary between our bodies and the world around us.

Discover why we feel refreshed after visiting the ocean, how our gut helps us maintain homeostasis, and the evolutionary root of bad dreams.

Listen each week as Dr. Gupta helps listeners uncover what mindful, healthy living really means.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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Sometimes it's Healthy to Break the Rules
Chasing Life
Jun 7, 2022

Not following rules and letting go might actually make you feel better. Just ask musicians who improvise and make up music on the fly. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with Dr. Charles Limb about his study on musical improvisation and its impact on the brain. Plus, “Saturday Night Live” jazz saxophonist Ron Blake shares life-changing lessons from music that we can apply to our everyday lives. And to top it off, Sanjay attempts some freestyle rap. Spoiler alert: he’s pretty good at it.

Episode Transcript
Ron Blake
00:00:00
Three, four, one, two, three, four.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:00:07
That's Ron Blake. He's a jazz saxophonist and improvisation professor at Juilliard. He's also been a member of the Saturday Night Live band for the last 17 years.
Ron Blake
00:00:19
So here, you know, it's like imitation, then conversation.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:00:24
Today, he's taking us behind the curtain and sharing his approach to improvisation.
Ron Blake
00:00:30
I'm listening to the bass and just trying to play something that sounds like a story.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:00:35
We started by having him listen to an existing piece of music, and he responded by coming up with his own solo on the spot.
Ron Blake
00:00:46
And then this part here, I'm expanding upon an improvisational idea, more or less. Grab the melody. I feel that the integration, cooperation, you know, the conversation that's happening on the bandstand, if that is in some way reflected in your solo, then the listener gets a little bit more in tune to what we're listening to, as opposed to just playing a lot of hot licks.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:01:34
Ultimately, the creative improv process asks, what happens when we free ourselves from expectation and constraint? How do we let go of the fear of the unknown?
Ron Blake
00:01:46
You just have to go out there and just jump off the cliff sometimes or all the time, preferably.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:01:53
You might remember last season we discovered all the good things that learning an instrument can do for our brains. Well, today we're going to talk about what happens in a musician's brain when they're thinking on the fly. How can a jazz performer like Ron hear a melody and instantly create something new and even beyond music? We'll explore what happens in all of our brains when we feel that spark of creativity, of something bubbling up deep inside that just has to come out. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief Medical Correspondent. And it's time to start chasing life.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:02:32
If I kind of think back on my life, music was the great teacher for me. Always. It's always the music.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:02:38
That's Charles Limb. As you can tell, one of his great passions in life is music. He's also an ear, nose and throat surgeon and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. I first met Dr. Limb for an interesting story a decade ago at the National Institutes of Health. We were exploring the brains of jazz musicians and freestyle rappers as they were getting a functional MRI in his lab.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:03:04
So you just came up with that?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:03:05
Yeah. That's why it was so bad.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:03:06
No, it was good. It was really good. We recently reconnected a few weeks ago.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:03:11
So, you know, my background is somebody who is kind of a lifelong musician who never became a musician. And so I think when I was younger, I was so absorbed by music and so deeply immersed in it, but I never felt like I had the conviction to become a professional musician or I didn't feel that I had the talent. And as I kind of got drawn into a career in medicine, I somehow kept finding my way back to sound and hearing and music. So I became a hearing specialist. And then as an otolaryngologist, I think one of the kind of notable things to me was how little we actually knew about music. And so in my medical career, I just started asking questions about music and wanting to learn techniques to allow me to answer these questions. And so before you knew it, I was doing functional brain studies of musicians and really trying to understand the science of hearing not just sound, but hearing music in particular, and then treating a lot of musicians in the clinic, doing a lot of hearing restoration surgery because I'm a cochlear implant specialist and trying to figure out how to get somebody who's deaf to hear music again.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:04:07
You know, it's interesting, I remember thinking after we last met that I do know many surgeons who, who also play music. I guess I'm sort of trying to find the inflection point for you between music slash creativity and your work in science and medicine.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:04:25
One of the kind of amazing things for me when I was learning surgery was how similar it felt to me to learning how to play an instrument. And I realized that there is this kind of immersion that takes place in the mundane, physical, ergonomic, mechanical details that are necessary in order to play an instrument well, that becomes very fascinating to a musician, right. And so to me, what's kind of fascinating about the concept of taking this kind of didactic procedural knowledge and then using it for something that's non didactic or non procedural like spontaneous creativity, there's a natural union between the two because you need to actually have gained and acquired the sort of facility and skill from the training, from the practice in order to actually be able to do things that are unplanned.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:05:16
How do you define creativity? I have felt that some of our greatest advancements come when people are able to create novel thoughts, right? Things that you're not just perfecting what already exists. You're actually trying to create new avenues of thought.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:05:31
I don't get stuck on definitions, but if I had to define creativity, it would be exactly what you said. The generation of something novel. Now, people will often put a sort of contextual requirement on it that it has to be kind of relevant and useful. But to me that is not the root of creativity. I think children can be highly creative. You know, a child is doodling, can be massively creative, even if what they're doing isn't a masterpiece. For them and for their brain, it's a creative output. It's also worth pointing out that improvisation is not random. And so the reason why there must be some sort of skill or practice involved is because it's actually, it's, it's intentional even if it's not controlled. It's not the same as just generating randomness as a form of novelty. It's actually purposeful, intentional and also very individualized. You know, one person's one jazz person solo is it's kind of their unique musical voice, and typically you can hear that identity. And that's why comedians and rappers and jazz musicians, they all have a certain style that is theirs. It's like when you reach a certain level, you have a version of this that is sort of uniquely yours.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:06:39
So do you sort of think about that, that point, like the guy who's improv-ing all of a sudden in the middle of a of a of a jazz number? They've obviously heard what the person just before them gave to them, but now they're drawing on all their other experiences to create something, or is it truly novel?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:06:59
I think it's always based on who you are, where you've been, it's sort of the distillation of your life experience, your musical experience, and even that how you are that day and in that moment that affects what you play. Now, I guess the real question is, have you played what you just played before? Now everybody has sort of tendencies, right? So like musicians have tendencies, licks that they've learned, scales that they tend to prefer or, you know, musicians that they've been influenced by that sort of will cause them to tend to play in certain areas. That doesn't make it any less novel.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:07:34
Yeah, I know there's times when I've listened to certain musicians in that setting, you know, where they're not playing a known number. And I've walked away thinking I did not expect that. I did not expect that from this person. And it just gave me a sense of their breadth. But it felt new. To me, certainly, and maybe to them.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:07:53
I think that's, you know, when when jazz is at its best. So Nat Hentoff had described jazz as the sound of surprise. And I love that description because it's exactly kind of how you experience it as a listener. You're like, you do exactly what you just said, you we allow that. Where did that come from? And you're really like, it's it's such a moment of, it's like an epiphany for everyone that was there at the same time. You think, wow. Like, did you hear that? And so for me, it's one of the reasons why live jazz is always the way I want to hear jazz, because I know it's been, it's never going to be generated like that ever again. And it was just this kind of like moment in time that happened to you happen to have the privilege of witnessing.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:08:33
What is happening in the brain? I mean, this has been an area of study for you and maybe you could talk a little bit about how you even sort of approached understanding what's happening in the brain when people are creating, when they're creative, you know, when they're creating something new.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:08:46
So when I was learning functional brain imaging at the National Institutes of Health, I was kind of left to my own devices. So I was, you know, in this sort of like research lab with no windows, I had access to a brain scanner and I didn't have a lot of oversight into what I was doing. And I was studying auditory language processes. And as a jazz musician, I knew right away, just intuitively, that something's different when you play something memorized and when you play something improvised. And so for anybody that's listening and has played any music, you know that you're in a certain sort of frame of mind, a mental state, when you're playing something that you've memorized. And you also know that when you're just playing off the cuff, that it's a really different mental state. And so, as a sort of struggling amateur jazz musician, I wanted to understand that process, using the sort of neurobiologic methods that I had access to. And so I realized that functional MRI, like the scanner is agnostic to what you're doing in there. You know, you're just scanning the brain, your body could be doing anything as long as your head is moving. And so suddenly I felt very free in my thinking. I thought, well, how can we actually sort of subvert this technique and somehow use it to study jazz? And then I started thinking about, well, what is the most basic thing that a jazz musician really does that is a good representation of their their output, and it's playing the blues. And so, you know, one of the most basic things for a jazz, which is to play the 12 bar blues. So I set that up as the experiment where musicians would come and they would memorize a novel piece of music that I had written for them, and they would play that on an on a piano keyboard that took me two years to make that would work inside the MRI scanner.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:10:32
Wow. Yeah.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:10:34
And so they would lie down in the scanner playing this memorized piece of music with this backing track. And then at other times, they would jam on the blues to the same backing track. And suddenly we had a, just using jazz itself, we had a really nice, controlled, experimental condition set up to allow us to sort of compare brain activity between these two conditions. And so that's kind of how we started delving into this topic of what happens in the brain when a musician is doing what they do. And if I had to summarize years of data down into sort of, you know, a couple of sentences here, probably the most interesting or signature finding is that when an expert musician starts improvising, they start turning off conscious control mechanisms in the prefrontal cortex. So they're basically, there's a huge inhibition of these conscious control areas lead to, that are involved in self-monitoring and planning and effortful planning. They're basically turning off the sensor, the self-censor, to allow the unimpeded flow of novel ideas.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:11:42
I love that. I mean, this, so turning off inhibition in a way. On one hand, you think about these areas of the brain that are being turned off as absolutely necessary for your ability to execute things, to to use good judgment, things like that. But in order to, to actually be creative or to create novel things here, you have to sort of turn that off.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:12:07
Exactly. And not everybody can do it. I think you have to have a certain comfort level of relaxation to dismiss -- I mean, there's risk taking involved, right. And so like, for example, you can imagine if you or I had to go onstage and do comedic improvization, we'd feel had to be terrified because this is not what I do. And suddenly you feel very exposed, very vulnerable, very at risk. And so that risk is, I think, a reflection of inability to let go of conscious self-monitoring. And so the season jazz player, I think, does that naturally and quote effortlessly because of the years of practice.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:12:40
Do you find that there's other areas of the brain that change as well? So if you're if you're inhibiting, you know, these areas that may be sort of preventing you from being vulnerable, preventing you from from just, you know, freestyling. Are you activating other areas at the same time?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:12:56
Yeah, absolutely. So the other thing is that if you have an interactive form of improvisation, you know, a lot of musicians in jazz will play sort of back and forth. There's like a call and answer thing called trading fours that they do where they're essentially having a musical conversation without using words. And if you look at the brain activity during that musical conversation, they are using language areas of the brain to enact this musical improvised conversation without the involvement of semantic portions of the brain, like the angular gyrus, for example, that gives you semantic cognition. That's deactivated during this musical conversation. So we're seeing a ton of sort of complexity to the neural networks that are involved in these forms of things. And I would be the first to tell you, it's not it's not a simple story. There's a lot of factors and cofactors involved, as there should be because music is so rich. It's like there's a reason it stood the test of time in all cultures and all histories, because it can mean any number of things to everyone. And so you can use science to understand creativity. You're not going to describe all of it right away, but you can start just to look beneath the surface and start to see what's there.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:14:03
Improvisation isn't just for trained musicians. Dr. Limb said it's part of our everyday lives. Think about driving a car. The first time you drive a car, it took so much effort, right? You're thinking about traffic rules every turn you make, every shift of the gear. But eventually, after years of doing it, it's almost relaxing. You can turn your active thought process sort of off and trust your instinctive response.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:14:28
Something happens along the way in that acquisition of knowledge that it gives you the ability to enter a flow state. And I think a lot of creativity in music at this kind of upper level is about how well you can enter a flow state where the rest of the world sort of dissolves and melts away and you're left with just you and your musical thoughts.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:14:46
That flow state, which I think a lot of people who are listening may sort of sort of intuitively get maybe they've they've been in that flow state and in different ways in their lives. I'm a very amateur musician, but I enjoy it and I like to go just, you know, play the piano. You know, sometimes I will learn pieces of music, but I will riff a little bit or give my own spins on those those pieces of music. Oftentimes, I'm by myself or I'm playing for my daughters. That's it. Nothing. Nothing very public, but it feels good. You know, it's just I get joy out of it. Is is that, is there a connection between just, you know, I guess, mental health and the idea of practicing improvisation?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:15:30
Music as a kind of form of helping our wellbeing, the sort of therapeutic aspects of music, is very, very much a powerful thing that is still untapped and I think remains to be understood scientifically in a much more profound way. And so just as as just as somebody who loves music and never picks up an instrument ever in their life, but only gets to hear it, that alone is a really robust stimulus for the brain. So any time I put someone in a brain scanner, I have them listen to music, like the entire brain is lighting up, essentially. I mean, you know, all different kinds of sensory modalities are lighting up emotional areas, cerebellar areas. I mean, it's a robust stimulus for the brain. And who hasn't been comforted by listening to music in their life, right? I mean, I think that people understand because music is best at one thing. It's best at conveying emotion. It's much better at language, at doing that. It's not nearly as good at conveying specific propositional thought the way language is. So when you, this whole idea of music as a universal language, it's it's limited in what it can do language wise, but incredibly good at conveying emotion. And so as a result of that ability for it to convey emotion, I think it it improves our empathy, it improves our ability to not feel alone and I think can help heal us in ways that a very fractured globe right now could really benefit from.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:16:49
That's beautiful, Charles. I mean, I totally get what you're saying. I mean, there's times when I have looked to music as well, you know, to to to give me some comfort, you know, in, either when I was being challenged or also to give me focus and inspiration at other times as well. Do you do you feel like, again, your two worlds of music and medicine, music and surgery... Are you a better surgeon, do you think, because of your musical background?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:17:19
You know, I hope I am, but but I think if there's a reason for that, I think it's because music is forcing me to think deeply about not just what I'm doing as a surgeon, but the life that the person is living. And, you know, I think there's something about when you're taking a patient to surgery, I mean, they're entrusting you with so much. I mean, you know, I recently had surgery and I had to take to witness this experience as well. It's like it's a surrender, right? And, you know, you are basically saying to yourself, okay, here's my life. Please take it and take care of me. I feel like I understand that process better, that sort of empathy involved and understanding that because of music. I'm thinking about these things that are very much, I think, more humanistic than technical.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:18:08
You said that, you know, you sort of stratify people who listen to music, people who may play music, and I guess maybe maybe your voice as an instrument, too. I mean, singing does does that count?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:18:20
And absolutely. I think that's everyone's instrument, right? Everyone has this, probably the first instrument and because it's yeah, it's it's so democratizing because everybody has access to it. I think singing is incredibly beneficial and cathartic. You know, I don't know if you've ever done karaoke, but I hopefully one day you and I will do karaoke together because I think it's just such a cathartic thing. If you're not a singer, to sing in public is truly a remarkable experience.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:18:48
You know, I have to tell you that my, my parents are big into karaoke. And by the way, I learned this in the day, you know this I'm sure, but karaoke means "empty orchestra" in Japanese. That's the translation. But they, they are you know, I'm Indian. My parents are Indian immigrants and engineers their whole life and very much engineers in terms of their personality and everything. When they retired, Charles, a few years ago, several years ago, they they they always listen to music, but they started singing. And I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears at first when I saw my dad up there belting out karaoke, and he does it without a trace of inhibition. I mean, I don't know that I could do it because I still have, you know, too many, you know, inhibitions, probably or I feel too silly, maybe. But it is it is incredible. And, you know, I've always thought, hey, they're enjoying it. So that alone is enough of a reason to just keep doing it. But but it does seem to have an impact on their on their brains, their memories, their their sort of energy around those things.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:19:54
Yeah, I think there's a ton of endorphins and, you know, well-being neurotransmitters that are being released that that's why they do it, they do it because it feels good. They're laughing, they're smiling, there's a certain joy to it. And, you know, I would say that when I play music and it's going well, in a way, there's nothing that can approach that feeling. There's there's a certain it's like a form of joy and peace and just satisfaction that it's so deep, it's so profound, and that very few experiences in the world, I think, can, can give me that. And singing as a you know, there's almost a comedic aspect of it when you're an amateur, right? You know, like you watch, and and that's part of the joy. It's like the the the ridiculousness of the proposition and the fact that it doesn't matter how good you are, it just matters that you're doing it. That, to me is part of what's so I think beneficial as therapeutic about is that you did it, you stood up and you grabbed the microphone, you started singing. Actually, there's nothing funnier than watching someone who's hesitant to do this. After their first song, they're like grabbing the mic saying, "hey, give me that, give me that back. I want to pick another one."
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:21:01
Right? Give me the microphone over and over again. I would like that by the way, we should definitely do karaoke if we, when we get together.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:21:10
Noted. Yes, absolutely. Let's do it.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:21:14
I really do find that so interesting, this idea of shutting off that self-conscious, self-monitoring side of your brain and really allowing your walls to come down. So after the break, Charles and I are going to put our own creativity to the test. This isn't going to be anything like too professional guys so.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:21:32
Oh. Hopefully this can be edited out later, too. We can substitute Eminem in or something like that.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:21:39
Let me think about this, uh. And now back to Chasing Life. You know, I think I think the time we were together, maybe back over a decade ago, I think you you at some point during our conversation, you we didn't do karaoke, but I think we started sort of doing a little freestyle rapping, which was a lot of fun. And also, you know, again, I mean, I have a hard time sometimes being vulnerable. You know, I feel silly, but maybe, maybe we could try, you know, just just something here. I'll start something. Maybe. Maybe a you said it's 12, 12 bars, right?
Dr. Charles Limb
00:22:23
Oh, no, don't, don't. I think at this at this level of freestyle, we shouldn't worry about rules.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:22:28
Okay. All right. Yeah.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:22:30
In fact, it doesn't even matter if it rhymes, really, but usually, like, usually that's sort of like, you know, one of the one of the hallmarks of it is that there's a rhyme involved. It doesn't have to be an exact rhyme. It can be an inexact rhyme.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:22:42
Let me think about this. Uh, okay.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:22:45
No you can't! That's actually the thing, you can't.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:22:46
Okay I won't think. I won't think. I won't think. Okay. All right. Ready? Here we go. Charles, I love the brain. And you love the ears. We both love music, helps overcome our fears.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:22:59
Wow. That's like poetry.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:01
It even rhymes!
Dr. Charles Limb
00:23:04
Wow, Sanjay, I like to hear you rap. That's something that I thought would sound like crap. But yet, when I heard when I heard you, spin those words, suddenly I thought, huh? He can really... See I lost it.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:19
I like that!
Dr. Charles Limb
00:23:19
I started thinking what rhymes with words, right?
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:22
That's right, yeah. Music makes us remember things we had lost. It's an exercise for the brain. Comes at no cost.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:23:32
Ah, nice.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:33
Right? Right. I mean--
Dr. Charles Limb
00:23:34
Yes.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:34
We all have, we all have an instrument.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:23:37
You're good at this! Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:23:39
I don't. I don't. I don't know that I'm good at it as much as the fact that you enable it for me. I mean, I don't think that maybe in our lives we freestyle enough. You know, I, I think, you know, again, as surgeons, I think so much of literally medical school is ABC when you're doing trauma, right? Airway, breathing, circulation, I mean, everything is, is it's so defined and you're not you're not supposed to freestyle. It's frowned upon. So I think when I was hanging out with you, another surgeon, and you're saying, yeah, you know what, man? It's okay. I found it quite liberating, actually.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:24:17
You know, if if you've ever spent time with a freestyler, it's really, really mind blowing. And so that's what I think is so, so interesting about it, is that you realize, like, oh, wow, like, genius comes in all forms. It doesn't require a high level schooling or education to actually, like, strike you as immediate genius, right? Some of the like I think most authentic versions of of art or folk art or street art art is the most amazing version of genius that you can ever see.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:24:47
I really have such tremendous respect for Improvizational artists. I mean, just witnessing those different parts of the brain, both being activated and inhibited in real time. That's what's so remarkable to watch. And that's also what gets me back to jazz musician Ron Blake, who improvised for us earlier. I wanted him to share his thoughts on jazz. That's a form of music built on adaptation and bringing people's different experiences to life.
Ron Blake
00:25:13
I don't like labels so much anymore. That's one of the things that, you know, I've learned over the years. You know, jazz, for lack of a better word, is trying to describe an all encompassing music of the Black experience, primarily, but also all musical experiences. I think many Black musicians had to prove themselves because they were not given opportunities that others were in this country. Jazz, or the musicians that play this music, for the most part, they aspire to a level, high level of creativity and artistry, which includes improvisation, interpretation of harmony and concepts or sounds in music and adapting them in a way that works.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:26:02
We talked about this flow state earlier, a mentality where the rest of the world fades away and you're left with just the music. For Ron and for a lot of us, it's that feeling of getting in the zone.
Ron Blake
00:26:15
I sort of lose touch with the need to be aware of time. I'm listening to everything that's going on around me. I'm aware of the energy that's coming from the audience. To be able to just look out and sense that they hear what you're saying. Being in the zone, being really comfortable and trusting that you're going to be able to get your point across. The spirit of adventure never leaves the room. That's not something that's on automatic pilot. Although we as musicians and improvisers, 90% of what you hear us play, we've practiced at some point. It's just how we choose to use it in the context of what's going on. You get to a point where when you're in the zone that you just want to make something that feels good, sounds good. And that requires a level of trust that goes beyond doing what you know all the time. You just have to go out there and just jump off the cliff sometimes or all the time, preferably.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:27:21
Now, if you're like me, the idea of jumping off a cliff into the unknown is a bit intimidating. But Ron doesn't let that stop him. In fact, he says, experiencing the unknown has made him not only a better musician, but a better person.
Ron Blake
00:27:35
I try to be more inclusive. I try to be more adaptable. One thing I do know from the experience of trying to be a better improviser all these years is that I try to listen more to people. It really is simple, but it goes beyond that point of having these fixed notions that life is this way, you know? And being an improvising musician has definitely taught me that there's a lot more to living than the things I know.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:28:10
It is really refreshing to hear Ron's perspective on life. How we should all listen, more communicate, and yeah, sometimes just go with the flow. So what are some steps that can help us reap the rewards of improvisation? Well, here's tip number one from Dr. Charles Limb. Don't take improv too seriously.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:28:30
Don't put it on a pedestal. Everybody improvises all day long. Who goes in with a memorized conversation in mind, right? Every everything you do is is unscripted all day long. You're improvising your way through your day. You're driving, when you commute to work, you're improvising your way on the highway. That is just a part of being human. In fact, that's an essential human behavior, without which, we probably would not have survived as a species.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:28:52
Tip number two. Put on a beat, let loose, and try creating something from scratch.
Dr. Charles Limb
00:28:59
Try it. Get a drum beat out and try to generate some rhymes and see how it sounds to you. When you do it, it you will instantly feel that change in your shift where you're more self-conscious and you're like, oh, like I'm not comfortable. And then as you start doing it, you sort of start to let go and you realize, oh, I think I understand the feel of it. And then if you if it's not rap or rhymes that you're into, compose a melody, right? Like, if you've never generated something new as a melody, do it by do it by humming. I mean, I think there's a real beauty to this idea that it doesn't have to be high level art to be relevant art for yourself.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:29:33
Tip number three. This one's from Ron. Practice flexibility.
Ron Blake
00:29:37
If you're going to be more flexible in your your lifestyle and embracing of other things, you have to practice that as well. And I think that that's one of the things that improvisation has taught me. You know, I spend a lot of time working on the same things, but I practice them differently, or I find ways to create variations.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:30:00
And it's okay to make mistakes.
Ron Blake
00:30:03
My idea of success and failure has definitely been affected by my ability to trust that I'm going to make mistakes in the moment and I can make the reference to cooking. And maybe you did put too much garlic in the dish, but maybe, you know, like, oh, a little bit of lemon. And lo and behold, it tastes way better than you thought it was going to.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
00:30:30
Something else I learned was the benefit of going outside your comfort zone. Let me tell you that rap was not in any way a part of my comfort zone. I don't rap in my everyday life, but letting go of that fear, that self-monitoring part of the brain that tells you, you can't do it. I felt another part of my brain take over, that creative side coming into play, and it felt really good. So I'm going to make a promise to myself to try to be better about letting go and not allowing my inner self critic to take the wheel so often. Who knows? Maybe I'll get into freestyle rap. What did you learn from today's episode and how are you planning to put these tips into action? Record your thoughts as a voice memo. Email them to asksanjay@cnn.com Or give us a call at 4703960832 and leave a message. You can also tweet me at @drsanjaygupta. That's Dr. spelled D.R.. We might even include your responses on an upcoming episode of the podcast. We'll be back next Tuesday. Thanks for listening. Chasing Life is a production of CNN Audio. Megan Marcus is our executive producer. Our podcast is produced by Emily Liu, Andrea Kane, Xavier Lopez, Isoke Samuel, Grace Walker and Anne Lagamayo and Allison Park. Tommy Bazarian is our engineer and a special thanks to Ben Tinker, Amanda Sealy, Carolyn Sung and Nadia Kounang of CNN Health, as well as Rafeena Ahmad, Lindsay Abrams and Courtney Coupe from CNN Audio. And thank you to Ron Blake for sharing his musical talents with us on this episode.