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“The next time you’re working hard on a creative project or work assignment that requires intense focus and creative chops, try taking a five-minute daydreaming break every hour or so, and see how it affects your ideas and thinking. During this break, engage in a simple activity that will allow your mind to wander, like walking, doodling, or cleaning. Consider this your creative incubation period and see if you feel a renewed sense of creative energy when you get back to work.” – Scott Barry Kaufman, Wired to Create
We all have a natural ability and desire to create. Our unique views and life experiences make us who we are. They also make our creations both original and relatable.
And with the rise of the internet, our tools for creating have become immensely powerful. Wielding those tools starts by using your brain’s two distinct modes for creating.
The Two Modes of Creativity
The first is Mind-Wandering Mode. This mode allows for daydreaming and brainstorming. It frees our minds to look outside our normal frameworks to come up with new ideas.
The second is your Executive Mode. This is a state of single-pointed focus on a task. In this mode, you execute and take action on your ideas. You press forward and overcome obstacles in order to bring your vision to life.
What helps us become more creative is giving our mind freedom to wander. Allowing for mind-wandering helps us develop the ideas that we later execute. Both of these modes are essential for creativity to flourish.
Daydreaming is the essence of mind-wandering creativity. By visualizing an idea, you can test it out before executing it. The activities below make room for daydreaming by engaging your body but leaving your mind open.
Here are five ways to spark creativity:
1. Go For A Walk
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live! Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow. ” – Henry David Thoreau
Earlier this week, I had a problem that seemed to have no good solution. Instead of taking action on a subpar choice, I went for a walk. By the time I returned half an hour later, I’d figured out how to solve the problem in less time and with a better result.
This is the power of letting your mind mull over a problem instead of forging ahead with a mediocre idea. While you walk, your mind is working. The combination of exercise and environment stimulates your mind to come up with ideas that wouldn’t show up at your desk.
“But when you get up for a bathroom break or a walk around the block to clear your head—precisely when your attention wanders away from the task at hand—the missing link pops into your mind. More often than not, the elusive Aha! moment comes when you give the intensely focused mind a little break and let your thoughts wander free, uninhibited by critical thought.“ – Scott Barry Kaufman
2. Take A Shower
“Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference.” – Nolan Bushnell
When you’re showering, your mind is deprived of distractions. It’s essentially a think tank – a place for your mind to mull over solutions with no outside input.
3. Spend Time In Nature
“In the solitude of immaculate nature, each moment is worth its weight in gold [and] brings us closer to the ultimate nature of things. The outside silence opens the doors of the inner silence. Then, the freshness of the present moment nurtures our heart with good qualities. When silence reigns, our mind can easily stretch over the space around us and melt into it. The outside peace and the inner peace are as one” – Mathieu Ricard
Being in a natural environment has numerous benefits, and increased creativity is among them. Just by going on a walk in the woods, you’re in a different mental state. The natural beauty around you opens your mind and sparks your creativity.
As you walk around, you feel more calm and at ease. In this state, your mind is more creative and open to new ideas.
When you’re trying to creatively brainstorm, go for a hike with a notebook. It’s easier to listen to yourself when there are no distractions around.
4. Try New Things
“There are simpler ways to shake yourself out of familiarity (and maybe out of a creative rut too). Try out a new creative outlet or a totally different medium of expression (if you’re a writer, learn to play a musical instrument; if you’re a dancer, paint), take a new route home from work, or seek out a new group of people with different interests or values that you might learn from. Even a small rejiggering of your normal routine can reap major rewards for your creative life.” – Scott Barry Kaufman
Breaking out of our normal routine allows for new thoughts to come to the surface. Our minds often get caught in loops of repetitive thoughts. Performing the same tasks in an unchanging environment makes it difficult to break these patterns.
When you’re on a new path, thinking differently becomes more natural. It has the added benefit of bringing more variety into your daily life.
5. Meditation and Mindfulness
“While the capacity to observe the present moment without distraction or judgment is a vital skill for anyone who seeks joy and fulfillment in life, it’s particularly important for the creative thinker to be able to bear witness to her inner and outer worlds, and meditation can be a helpful tool for cultivating this type of attention.” – Scott Barry Kaufman
Meditation improves our ability to pay attention to our thoughts. It frees our minds from rumination and helps guide our minds in a more creative direction.
Having this level of mental awareness enhances our creativity and well-being. It also improves our focus when we’re executing our creative ideas. In Wired To Create, more benefits of meditation are shared, including improved:
- Task concentration and sustained attention
- Empathy and compassion
- Introspection and self-regulation
- Memory and learning
- Positive affect and emotional well-being
- Relief from stress, anxiety, depression, and sleeping problems
“Being mindful alters the very structure and function of the brain, supporting executive functions like attention and self-regulation, both of which are valuable assets to creativity—especially when it comes to motivating ourselves to sit down and focus on a challenging creative task for extended periods of time.” – Scott Barry Kaufman
“Creativity isn’t just about innovating or making art—it’s about living creatively. We can approach any situation in life with a creative spirit. We all have the capacity to dream, explore, discover, build, ask questions, and seek answers—in other words, to be creators.”- Scott Barry Kaufman
Creativity shows up when we create room for it. Doing things that leave your mind free to wander will allow your ideas to flow freely. Creativity seems ephemeral, but we can increase it by doing the right things.
Whenever you’re feeling stuck in a creative rut, try one of these steps to get the ideas flowing again:
- Go for a 30-minute walk without your phone
- Take a long shower
- Go for a hike
- Do something you’ve never done before
- Meditate and notice what thoughts arise
What are your methods for maximizing creativity? Share them in the comments below!