From the time our alarm clocks go off in the morning, until we crawl back into bed, exhausted, at the end of the day, we stay too busy. Every bit of time seems to be booked down to the minute. Unfortunately, this means that we have little time just to let our minds wander and because of this, our creativity takes a massive blow. After all, it’s almost impossible to focus our attention creatively, when we are distracted all the time.
Recent research that was done by Jonathon Smallwood and Jonathan Schooler has provided a better understanding of how our creativity is affected. The study included one hundred forty-five participants, 35 males, and 110 females, between 19 – 32 years old. Their participation counted as partial fulfillment of their course requirement at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The results of this study found that participants who took part in the undemanding task groups reported a much more significant amount of mind wandering than those who were in the demanding task group. In the discussion at the end of the research it says:
“The findings reported here provide arguably the most direct evidence to date that conditions that favor mind wandering also enhance creativity.”
Being able to switch our minds between focusing on tasks and daydreaming is essential. However, it’s challenging even to start daydreaming in the first place, when we are distracted because we are too busy.
Emma Seppälä, who is Science Director at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education wrote something I found interesting in her article: “History shows that many famous inventors have come up with novel ideas while letting their minds wander. In 1881, for example, famed inventor Nikola Tesla had fallen seriously ill on a trip to Budapest. There, a college friend, Anthony Szigeti, took him on walks to help him recover. As they were watching the sunset on one of these walks, Tesla suddenly had an insight about rotating magnetic fields—which would, in turn, lead to the development of modern day’s alternating current electrical mechanism.”
To reclaim the creativity that we have lost from being too busy, we need to take a few steps back and learn to relax again. If you find that your schedule is often overbooked with too many things to do, then it may be helpful to schedule time to relax and commit to it. Put it on your calendar, so you don’t have the second book it because it’s just as important as the million other things you are running around doing daily.
During your scheduled block of ‘me time’ let your mind wander but don’t pick up your phone and also try to avoid thinking about all the things you need to do because that just keeps your brain in working mode.
It’s important to find a way to give your brain a break from the constant business that it’s used to. Here are a few ways that you can clear your mind so that your creativity can blossom again:
- Make time for fun and games
- Lie down with your eyes closed; let your mind wander
- Long walks (without staring at your phone)
- Sit outside and appreciate nature
- Deep breathing exercises
- Full body Stretches
- Try a new activity or class
Any of the above tips should stop your brain from over-processing information in work mode and let your mind wander. Then your creativity will start to blossom again.
Just remember, first you must let your thoughts roam for your imagination to take over. Who knows, you might be on the verge of discovering the next big thing!