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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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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