Creativity is an essential part of problem solving, communication, and for seeing how things are connected. Everyone can benefit professionally or personally from thinking outside the box from time to time. Whether you’re an engineer solving a problem on a medical testing system, a novelist with writer’s block, or you’re a parent that wants to foster imaginative thinking in your child, it never hurts to have a few tricks in your pocket to ignite your creative mind.
Here are 6 things you may not have considered that can help you tone-up your creative muscles.
You may get in trouble if you get caught in a meeting or in class doodling, but tell them it’s helping you work. Research has shown that doodling can actually increase blood flow to your brain. It is an inherently pleasant activity adding happiness to your creativity tab, but it’s also a valuable distraction. Sometimes distracting ourselves with simple manual tasks frees up parts of our brain to find new solutions or insight.
Picture yourself on a date
A series of experiments at the University of Arizona had participants engage in creatively engaging tasks, but one group of participants were asked to imagine themselves on a date before they went to their tasks. The men and women who thought about themselves on a date outperformed the ones who didn’t, and researchers theorize that creativity is actually a preferred trait in a mate. When you picture yourself in a dating situation, the primitive side of your brain might be trying to make itself as appealing as possible by upping the creative juices.
Staring at symbols and pictures
Some studies have found that staring at association-heavy symbols and logos increases creativity. One study asked some participants to stare at the Apple logo and others to stare at the less associative IBM logo. Then they had them list as many purposes for a brick as they could. The Apple participants listed more uses. The researchers theorized that this was because of the many associations apples and the Apple symbol create in the brain, compared to just the letters in the other logo.
Work out earlier
A study from Rhode Island College found that just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise was enough to dramatically increase creative problem solving. If you are looking for a boost from the muses, maybe simply rearranging your workout schedule could help get your brain innovating when you need it.
Imagine something terrible
It’s counterintuitive but thinking about the worst outcome can sometimes help find the best answer. In those stuck moments, when there’s a need to think outside the box, imagining something undesirable for just a few minutes, can help get the ideas flowing again.
Have a snack
The human brain is only five percent of your body weight, but it consumes one fifth of your oxygen and calories. Is it any wonder that you would be less creative with less food? Do yourself a favor and enjoy a meal before taking on creative tasks. You’ll not only be less cranky, but research has also found that ghrelin, a hormone released when we’re hungry, actually increases impulsive decision-making. Not only that, some time to enjoy a meal, perhaps with a friend or coworker, will give you some idle time to mentally recharge.