The Simple Way to Boost Your Creativity

The Simple Way to Boost Your Creativity

New research has shown the close connection between the mind and the body and the simple but important thing we can do to stimulate parts of the brain.

You’re sitting down, urging that creative spark to come. You can feel it. Almost there. But not quite. There it is. Nope. Gone again. It’s hiding like a hunted thing, peering from the distance, shyly darting from you as soon as you get close.

Frustrated and empty, you get up from your chair and start to walk, one foot in front of the other – and there it is, straight in front of you, then upon you, like it’s been waiting for you patiently the entire time.

The scientists at Stanford University would not be surprised.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, they have demonstrated that walking indoors or outdoors, as opposed to sitting, can increase creative thinking by up to 81% with an average increase of around 60%.

This creative boost lingers beyond the walk for 5 to 15 minutes.

Walking outside seems to have the greatest effect on creativity, but there’s no need slather on sunscreen to entice your creative energy to life. The act of walking is more important than where you walk. Even when participants in the study walked on a treadmill facing a wall in a small, bland room they showed a strong improvement in their creative thinking during and straight after their walk.

Interestingly, not all thought processes improved under the influence of walking.

The study looked at two types of thinking.

The first was divergent thinking – a creative process that requires opening up to many possibilities. (Think arts and humanities or brainstorming possible themes for your next party.) Ideas come from anywhere and flow freely and spontaneously. There is no one correct answer and often the outcomes are unexpected.

In the Stanford study, participants were asked to come up with alternative uses for common objects such as a button. Responses included ‘a tiny strainer’, ‘to drop behind you to leave a path’, ‘a door knob for a doll’s house’. Walking enhanced this type of thinking.

The other type of thinking tested was convergent thinking. This draws on logic and decision making to come up with one correct answer. (Think maths and science or trying to figure out why there’s no music coming through the speakers at your brilliantly themed ‘I-can’t-believe-you-wore-that-to-my-party’ party.)

Participants in the Stanford University study were asked for a word that goes with each of three words, such as cottage, Swiss and cake. (There’s only one answer – cheese.) For this type of thinking, performance after a walk was slightly worse.

Studies such as these show the close connection between the mind and the body and the importance of physical movement on stimulating parts of the brain.

At this stage, it’s unclear whether the improvement in creativity is specific to walking or whether any form of mild activity would see the same result.

Also unclear is exactly how walking fuels creativity. Walking seems automatic but that’s because we’ve been doing it all our lives. In actual fact, walking requires its share of mental energy to keep us upright, balanced, steady, left foot … right foot … breathe … left … right ….

It is plausible that occupying the mind with the act of walking means that there is less energy available to screen (read ‘block’) ideas. More unlikely, unfamiliar and unexpected ideas are able to seep through. Think of it as distracting the gatekeeper. Creativity requires that ideas be allowed to have air-time. Sometimes it’s the wildest ideas that have the juice and lead to something brilliant.

The capacity for brilliance is in all of us, but breaking through can feel like taking to granite with a splintered toothpick. Next time the stirring of something is there, looking for a way out, start walking.

 

[irp posts=”93″ name=”What to Feel Differently? Start With This (And It’s Not What You’d Expect!)”]

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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