Does a cup of something warm get your day off to a flying start? Coffee is more popular than ever before and in the U.S. alone an estimated 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day. That’s 146 billion over the course of a year! For many of us across the world, our first thought upon waking is of coffee. It’s the perfect ritual to freshen up, shake off the remnants of sleep, and get the creative juices flowing.
Some people will head to their local coffee shop, others will use a machine in their home and after that first sip the ball is well and truly rolling. They sit at their computer, browse through their emails, and catch up with what’s going on in the world. Then… nothing. This happens sometimes. We’ve all felt it: despite the coffee we can’t quite get into the rhythm of the day and the motivation or energy that we need doesn’t quite come.
But there’s nothing to worry about! There are scientifically-proven methods to get your creativity flowing and you’ll find five of these secrets below:
1. Stretch those legs and go for a stroll
Do your surroundings feel all too familiar? The dull office walls, the habitual conversations, the same digital routines… It can all get a bit too much and this saps your creativity. This is why it’s great to get outside and take a walk.
Studies have shown that even a short stroll can boost a person’s creativity. A study from Stanford University found that the creative output for a person can increase by an average of 60 percent while they’re walking! You’ll feel calmer, your mind will relax, and you’ll think more freely.
It’s no wonder that so many visionaries and creative powerhouses have done this intuitively in the past. Steve Jobs was known to walk while thinking over problems, while Immanuel Kant is remembered just as much for his punctual walking sessions as his ideas.
2. Stop working in that awkward silence
The gentle hum of a computer. The droning of air conditioning units. The gentle tapping of keys. The clicking of mice. Against a silent backdrop these sounds are enough to make a person go wild and studies have demonstrated that silence actually saps our creativity.
Ambient noise can aid in creative cognition and improve our performance on creative tasks, so you should seek it out. Sneak out to a Starbucks or another coffee place to find the perfect background noise that can help you to get lost in your work and pursue new avenues of thought.
The study, which appeared in the Journey of Consumer Research, is a fascinating one and it explains the way that moderate sound assists us in creative tasks. Nonetheless, be careful not to overdo it because the same study found that any sound over 85 decibels actually hinders rather than helps our creativity and it can be even worse than silence!
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” – Kakuzo Okakaura
3. Get out of that office building and escape into nature
Being indoors can actually damage our creativity, too. Research from the University of Kansas has discovered that indoor environments and all that they bring – distractions, emails, notifications, people – means that our attention is divided across a huge range of sources and monitoring them reduces our capacity for creative and positive thought.
The solution to this is to go beyond the watercooler on your stroll. If you can find the time to get out of the office each day and into a natural environment your creativity, insights, and problem solving abilities will feel a big boost. In fact, the study demonstrates that participants witnessed a 50% boost in creativity after being outdoors for extended periods.
You should give it a try! Experiment for a week and see how your work is affected by the exposure to fresh air and organic material. There’s a great line from The Suburbs by Arcade Fire which sums this up: “Move your feet from hot pavement and into the grass.”
4. Don’t force it – let your mind wander
Getting stuck on an idea is a horrible feeling that feels like a physical barrier. Sometimes, moving past it seems to be impossible. It’s the same with trying to kindle creativity in the morning when you’re just not feeling it. It’s like trying to wrestle your way out of quicksand: the harder you struggle the deeper you fall and you just become more stuck.
Distractions and daydreaming seem like intrusions at these times but research has shown they can actually help us with our problem solving. Every person daydreams almost constantly and many of these are found to be “generated from representations that are based on information from memory.”
When you find yourself frustrated distract yourself with something silly or non-productive rather than throwing yourself at the problem again and again. The natural flows and rhythms of your thoughts might throw up a solution and present you with another path to take toward solving your problem.
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.” – Roman Payne
5. Find the right beat for your thoughts to bounce
Do you listen to music while you work? What genre? Chilled trip-hop beats? Classical music? Pop? Everyone has a different type of music that they prefer and that music has the potential to influence their emotions.
It comes as no surprise that the way we feel affects the way that we think, so music is a powerful tool that we can use to intentionally influence our thought processes. Studies have discovered that when we are happy our divergent thinking abilities are improved.
That’s right… it’s time for you to put together a dreadfully happy Spotify playlist. Those sweet pop songs can facilitate creative cognition to get your creative juices flowing. The research was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research so it’s all true: start building your happy playlist as soon as possible!
Coffee tastes great and helps to get us energized, but these techniques are scientifically proven to give us the creative boosts when we need them the most. Best of all, they can be mixed and matched. Consider putting on your playlist during your afternoon stroll in the park and letting your daydreams flow. Who knows what incredibly creative things you may come up with!
How do you get your creative juices flowing? Let us know your tips below!