Most people think that it is impossible to make yourself into a more creative person. After all, the creative geniuses we know about all seemed to show great promise from a young age. Plus, we all have those friends who are just ‘naturally’ good at drawing, or music, or coding.
But the idea that creativity is something we’re born with is just plain wrong. Sure, some people find it easier than others to make new connections between concepts or to visualize a finished painting. However, that is almost always the result of hard work and deliberate practice, not an accident of birth.
Now, if you’re an advertising executive, you probably aren’t interested in trying to become the next Beethoven. But you are definitely interested in finding ways to foster more fluid, creative thinking, both in yourself and in your team.
Luckily for you, there are lots ways to encourage more creative thinking. They’re easy, simple to action, and usually free! All you have to do is give them a try! Here are my top exercises for boosting creativity today.
Top 5 Exercises To Boost Creativity
Go For A Walk
This is such a classic creativity booster it’s almost a cliche. But the truth is that it works. For starters, the simple act of going out for a walk significantly reduces anxiety in the short term. Most people find that their ability to think is constantly clouded by their ever-growing to-do list, email bombardment, or constant phone ringing. A quick walk gets rid of these sources of stress and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
But walking has a much more powerful effect on creativity. A study conducted by Stanford psychologists found that walking directly contributed to more creative thinking. What is interesting is that it was the act of walking itself – not the being outside – which seemed to provide the added inspiration. Participants who were either currently walking or who had just been walking were much better at creating new analogies than those who had been sitting in the same environment! That said, a walk outside seemed to produce the biggest improvement of all tested groups.
Keep Your Hands Busy
There is a reason why so many successful people keep toys and puzzles on their desks. When you’re grappling with a difficult problem and you’ve hit a cognitive wall, then doing something with your hands is often a good idea.
The most obvious reason why this works is the distraction. It’s really hard to pull yourself away from a difficult problem, but when you do, you don’t want to throw yourself into something just as mentally taxing. You need something relatively mind-numbing and simple to let your brain recuperate.
There is, however, a more powerful reason why keeping your hands busy helps with creativity. The idea of embodied cognition is gaining traction in psychology (although it is far from a new idea). The basic idea is that we do not just think with our minds; we also think with our hands. Our cognitive processes are wrapped up in our bodily movements, and vice versa. Doing something intricate with your hands – a Rubik’s Cube, squeezing a ball, fiddling with dice – excites various parts of your brain and might actively change the way you are thinking.
Listen To Music
Of all the methods for getting the creative juices flowing, listening to music is probably the most effective. Music has been used as an inspirational tool by artists for as long as we have had art. It isn’t just a kind of old wive’s tale or trope, however; listening to music really does open up different pathways and allows for more fluid, creative thinking.
As this article explains, musical training can have a profound effect on the physical architecture of the brain. More specifically, young people who underwent musical training had stronger connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain than people who didn’t. We’ve long known that creativity is born when diffuse concepts are related in new ways. Having better connections between the analytical and creative sides of the brain can only make you a more creative person.
Throw A Ball Around
Seriously. This one works like a charm. There’s a reason why corporate retreats always have people toss a ball around during ice-breakers.
Throwing a ball around creates a feeling of camaraderie, makes people feel more interconnected, and takes your mind off everything else – including the coding problem you’ve been stuck on for the last 3 hours. Having a simple and relatively mind-numbing break from a problem often lets you come back to attack it from a completely different angle. Taking that break with other people will heighten your mood, as well as creating the kind of environment where collaboration can really take off. At the very least, it keeps your hands busy, which we’ve already said is a fantastic way to foster creative thought.
Write A Haiku
A lot of you will be extremely averse to this one, but hear me out! Writing about your day in a difficult, abstract way can really put you in a more creative mindset. Of all the ways to try poetry, it’s my opinion that Haiku is the most accessible. Try writing a basic Haiku about something easy – your day, your job, your dinner last night. The subject matter is irrelevant. What’s important is that you think about these mundane things in a new, abstract way.
A simple Haiku might just be the spark you need to solve the problem you’ve been working on for days!
About Eric Jackson
Full time media professional and part-time productivity hacker. I spent years struggling to find the time to do everything I wanted. Over the years I found ways to learn faster, achieve more, and crucially, relax more often. I now dedicate my spare time to helping people get the most out of their time.