Creativity is not only about artistic thought, as many people falsely think. It is the ability to ‘create’ something new out of the things that are already present and known. It is the ability to break the box and let your brain process information in a way that will allow you to make new breakthroughs, handle your daily challenges in a different way, or express yourself in the most efficient way.
Creative thought is what keeps the world moving forward. And it seems that the way our society has started functioning is a way that kills this creative process in our brains. We engage our brains into processing information in every moment of our day, be it at work, or while we presumably “relax.”
Forcing your brain to constantly process information, keeping it busy at all times is what new research has found to be the greatest enemy to creativity. And this includes your leisure time wasted on scrolling through your social media apps.
As Emma Seppälä, a Science Director at Stanford University, explains, “creativity happens when your mind is unfocused, daydreaming or idle.”
The research done by psychologists at the University of California has concluded that people are indeed more creative after allowing their minds to wander and daydream. Even when we focus on doing something challenging, it has been found that allowing your mind to wander off before focusing on the task results in handling it in the optimal and most inventive way.
What we consider as leisure time that usually involves immersing ourselves in our phones, watching Netflix movies for hours, and engaging ourselves in things that put loads of work on our brains that process that information.
And this is not leisure time for the brain. While you let your body rest, or take your mind off the actual problems in life, redirecting your focus on something else is something which is an additional informational burden for your brain.
This means that we never truly relax, we never let our thoughts drift away, and we have truly forgotten how it feels to daydream. We consciously kill our creativity, and we are seemingly happy about it.
As we said before, creativity has a lot to do with how you go through life. Everything you do can be done better if you set your mind to think more creatively and out of the box. So, how can you help your brain to relax?
Emma Seppälä has some very good suggestions that will not disrupt your daily patterns.
Take long walks (without your phone)
Creative geniuses like J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Dickens, did this. Even Nikola Tesla got his insight about rotating magnetic fields after taking long walks.
A Stanford University study has found that people who took long walks outside scored higher on creative thinking tests than those who did not. And let’s be real: walks are very relaxing and refreshing.
Get out of your comfort zone
The comfort zone is the enemy of growth. You will never imagine how all things (almost magically) connect to one another until you start experiencing that connection. And the best way to do it is to stop focusing so much on what you already know and get to explore the different things that this world has to offer.
“…Take up a new skill or class. Travel to new places and socialize with people outside your industry,” says Seppälä. This research-backed approach promises broader thinking and more innovative approaches to challenges.
Give yourself some playtime
Fun and games are not only for children. In fact, keeping your inner child satisfied will boost your happiness and creativity by a million. Research has found that introducing play in your day contributes to better mood and increased inventiveness.
So, join your kids in a game of Twister, play fetch with your dog, join a sports group or an improv group. Whatever makes you feel satisfied and fulfilled, do it and do not think of the consequences, because there are none. Benefits, on the other hand? Many.
Alternate between focusing and wandering/daydreaming
Focusing on something 100% never gives the best results. Alternating between focusing and doing something that is less intellectually demanding, on the other hand, lets your brain process all the information you cannot consciously cope with.
Adam Grant, Wharton School management professor and author of Give & Take, suggests that by swapping between intense focus and wandering/daydreaming will give your brain the much-needed downtime it needs to rearrange the information in your head more easily.
So, make a checklist and throw it away every time you get to one of these four points. Spend less time on your phone and more time outside, and give your brain a break if you want it to work to your benefit.
Creativity is THE most important thing you need to get through life and succeed. Hard work comes second.