1. Walk outside
Walking is obviously good for your physical health, but it can also do great things for your creativity. An experiment set up by Stanford tested the difference between sitting inside, walking on a treadmill inside, getting pushed on a wheelchair outside and walking outside. The research showed that walking improved creative output by as much as 60% compared with sitting, and between 81% and 100% of participants were more creative than they were before walking. Even after they sat back down their creativity was still increased afterward. While there are still many questions that cannot be answered by this research (for example whether it would be better to walk alone or with someone else), the results clearly showed that walking increased creativity both during the walk and for a while after.
Experiences of nature can also help to refresh mental energy and fight feelings of fatigue. Even looking at pictures of nature has shown to have this affect (not so much looking at pictures of cities though). So why not combine both- and get outside for a nice little stroll, especially before a morning brainstorming session!
2. Get blending
Conceptual Blending is a term used to describe when we blend previous unrelated concepts together.- which can be the key to coming up with someone amazing. In his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, John Lehrer tells the story of how one of our most commonly used products was invented: when one man who was inventing masking tape then went on to work with someone else in a completely different department in the company who happened to be working on a clear plastic he called cellophane. He came up with, you guess it, Cellotape! Because their company, 3M, likes to move people around to work together, this new invention was imagined through conceptual blending.
So why not try working with someone else- better still work with, sit next to or talk with someone who does a completely different role to you. If you are a blogger talk to a musician, or an accountant- you never know what conceptual blending you could do that could totally change your business and give your that next big idea.
3. Increase your alpha waves
Research shows that we are more likely to have light a bulb moment- that flash of inspiration- when our alpha waves in our brain are increased. In fact, researchers using an EEG machine could detect an insight moment up to 8 seconds before it happened, by observing the increase in alpha waves.
While the exact nature of alpha waves is not known, they do seem to be strongly linked with relaxing activities. So why not try doing something that makes you feel relaxed, like taking a nice stroll (an extra reason to try tip number 1!), watching a funny movie, having a hot shower or bath, practicing mindfulness, or going out for coffee. Now if your anything like me, you enjoy being creative and working on design problems. This feels much more like a fun activity than it feels like work. But fun doesn’t always equal relaxing. So you still need to learn to take a break. Need more ideas on relaxing activities? Check out my blog on self care for loads more ideas- like baking a cake- or maybe just eating one!
Want to do some more reading? Here are some of the articles I read for my information:
https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf - the Stanford walking experiment
https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow - a TED talk all about flow and happiness, definitely worth a watch.
What do you think??
What makes you feel more creative? Have you found that something that always helps? If not what do you think of trying the ideas above? I know for me walking outside almost always generates some ideas or new thinking :)