You sit at your computer, reading an article on how to improve productivity and creativity. You’ve been here for an hour, trying to get the juices flowing. Nothing is coming out of your brain that you find at all creative, original, or innovative. Maybe you are a writer, a filmmaker, a speaker, a producer, an entrepreneur. Deadlines are looming and it is time to take your work to a new level. You need to make good stuff and you need to make good stuff NOW. Coffee isn’t helping and you don’t do drugs (hopefully), so what do you do to break through?
And now there’s a new element to include in the daily movement toward your #bestself and #bestwork.
In your creative process, whether you are strategizing, creating a business plan, writing an article, or developing interview questions… whenever your brain needs a boost so you can go to the next level…
Involve your whole body in the process.
Specific, intentional, creative movement is scientifically proven to increase the quality of your creative work. There exists a reciprocal relationship between mind and body. Your brain is amazing, but all of your body parts can work together to improve your thinking skills so you can produce #allthethings that will make your dream a reality.
Basically, the pursuit of your dream, no matter how knowledge-based, is a full-body experience. Your body is not just carrying your brain around. Your body is most likely your biggest untapped resource when it comes to original thinking and creative output.
Let’s get practical.
There are a lot of metaphors for creative thinking. We often talk about “thinking outside the box” when we talk about originality, but scientist Angela Leung of Singapore Management University, and her team, decided to take that language literally and see if they could improve people’s creativity. It worked.
Take a walk around the room in a wild pattern for 1-2 minutes. Curve. Spin. Zig and Zag. Do not repeat the same pattern twice. Leung found that her subjects who walked in a random pattern came up with more ideas than those who walked in a rectangle shape or didn’t walk at all.
Another experiment Dr. Leung conducted involved a literal box. So, go find a box. Literally. Do did you order anything from Amazon lately? Go get the box and put it next to you. Leung had her subjects sit in boxes or next to boxes and those who sat next to a box had more ideas.
Every business owner or creative entrepreneur faces impossibly hard decisions and problems to solve. Whether you have re-writes to solve or clients with competing needs, it all comes down to your creative problem solving. Two psychologists, Li Huang and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, found that creating what they call mind-body dissonance helped people improve problem solving by increasing expansive thinking.
They had two test groups. One group experienced mind-body dissonance because they smiled while listening to sad music or frowned while listening to upbeat music. The other group made faces that matched the emotion of the songs they heard. As you may have guessed, the subjects who had dissonance, or conflict, between their faces and the emotion of the song were more expansive and creative in problem-solving afterwards. In other words, they saw more possibilities and found more solutions.
Try it! Need to solve a problem or find synergy between conflicting points-of-view? Smile while listening to a sad, sad song (maybe let Eric Clapton sing to you about “Tears in Heaven”) or furiously frown while listening to a happy song (obviously, Pharell’s got this one for you with “Happy”).
Some days you just need to get your mind flowing. It’s not that your ideas are boring, it’s just that you have no ideas. Try these simple actions to get the gears moving again. All over the world, scientists are finding that making small changes in body awareness and body movement do improve creative thinking.
- Type with your eyes closed. The act of removing your sight can help access different pathways in your brain and allow ideas to sneak out your fingers.
- Wiggle your toes while you work. Reconnecting your brain to the furthest parts of your body can help break through small thinking.
- Get up and dance like noone is watching. Shameless body movement inspires braver, wider creative expression.
- Grab a pack of cards and start sorting them into different stacks by suit or numbers. Then, sort them back into one pile again. The act of sorting into separate categories and then back together again, improves creativity.
- Pass an object from hand to hand. Vary the speed. Crossing the “midline” of the body is an important developmental step for children and continues to spark creativity even as an adult.
- This one is my favorites on a hard day. Lay down with your arms straight out. This allows your brain to relax and discover more new ideas.
These are just a few mind-body activities that are proven to increase creativity. The best part is that we are not limited to this list. A growing body of scientific work shows the valuable and mostly untapped connection between our bodies and our creative mental work. Don’t limit yourself!
Try some of these and keep up your pursuits!
This article originally appeared in the March Issue of our monthly magazine alongside articles from other great guest contributors and Kelsey with exercises, apps and worksheets, plus behind the scenes details from each February episode. To get the magazine subscribe here, issues are FREE but they expire each month so sign up today and download as soon they're available or you'll miss out! Subscribe
Nicole Romero is passionate about creativity in every area of life. After graduating from USC film school, she worked in Hollywood for years until chaos ensued and she found herself working at an unlikely place, a church. Ten years later, she is a teaching pastor at The Crossing Church in Southern California where she serves daily as the Creative Pastor. As a blogger and speaker, Nicole spends her time creating rich conversations around topics like leadership, faith, creativity, and love. Nothing is off limits. She founded “Love and Making It” to help creative, ambitious women bring their best to the world and to the most intimate areas of life. Get to know Nicole on Twitter.