How to maximize creativity with just 3 daily habits.
The human mind thrives on creativity. When you have a higher opennessto cognitive flexibility and the ability to entertain novel ideas, you have a natural capacity to overcome stress—a symptom of anxiety that if sustained can have consequences on your mental health. In other words, the traits of creativity have the potential to give you a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Without openness, you are more likely to become drained, less inspired, and less motivated.
Creativity isn’t exclusive to people who appear to focus on it for a living—it’s for everyone, because we all participate at varying levels, even if only mentally. The following daily routines are by no means the only means to improve your mental health, but they can certainly cultivate the right conditions to allow your creativity to thrive.
1. Switch off and get into a state of “being”
This may sound like a fruitless or unproductive exercise but it is absolutely essential—not just for your mental health, but in harnessing the best conditions to be creative. Throughout the day, you have to give your mind a break and let your subconscious bear some of the weight.
Switching off doesn’t necessarily mean going to sleep—most of us don’t have the luxury of doing that in the middle of the day. It means being relatively inactive in thought; requiring minimal willpower and concentration. This includes not looking at screens or devices, because checking feeds and notifications require a certain level of thought processing power that can drain your mental batteries pretty quick.
Imagine your brain as an engine that needs to be refueled periodically. You cannot run on fumes indefinitely without consequences—you need to spend some moments in calm and away from the busyness of your thoughts. Taking micro breaks can help you overcome stress and clear your head, but can also manifest stronger creativity levels.
The trick is not to think of micro breaks as wasted time, but as a way to recharge your batteries.
When you’re in a state of “being”, you become more conscious of your surroundings. You’re half-focused on the current experience as appose to letting your inner thoughts dominate fully. You give your subconscious intuition the best conditions to work in because there’s room for it to breathe. Getting into this state is fairly simple and really depends on what works best for you—you might be meditating, listening to music, or participating in leisurely exercise such as walking, jogging or cycling. Essentially, something that provides just enough distraction without overbearing concentration or stimulation.
For me personally, I’ve found that being in the shower, driving, walking, or even praying have been the most effective ways of “being”; there have been so many eureka moments where I’ve let my thoughts partially wander.
‘Creative potentials are usually blocked by the busyness of our minds and our lives. In order for them to emerge, both our lives and our minds have to become relatively empty and quiet.’ — Steve Taylor PhD, Psychology Today
When you’re at work, some experts on productivity believe it’s better to take micro breaks in the morning as appose to the afternoon—in other words, don’t leave the break until you’re tired, because you’re more likely to end up requiring a much longer one to obtain any noticeable benefit. With breaks in the morning, you’re less likely to feel fatigue at the end of the day and you can be more productive as a result.
2. Exercise for 15 minutes
What you might not know about exercise is that while it can obviously improve your physical health, it also has a positive effect on your mental health too—in more ways than one. Studies such as one by BJOSM have demonstrated that exercise can enhance creativity, and that a decent workout can even boost your creativity for up to two hours afterwards.
Similar research was carried out by Stanford University, revealing that simply walking has significant benefits to creative thinking; even sustaining for a little while after the walk. Walking either indoors on a treadmill, or outdoors in the fresh air both appear to produce twice as many creative responses compared to a person sitting down.
The benefits of exercise don’t just stop at boosting creativity. It increases levels of a brain protein known as BDNF, which is reportedly able to enhance cognitive performance; decision-making and learning ability. It can also reduce stress.
Physical activities can help the brain cope better with anxiety—without exercise, your body will struggle to efficiently deal with it.
‘Workout of the body’s communication system may be the true value of exercise; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.’ — American Psychological Association
Another side effect of a regular workout is better sleep. As little as 15-20 minutes per day of physical activity can dramatically improve the quality of one’s nighttime sleep—65 percent more in fact. With better rest you’re simply much more productive, and able to focus better during the day.
When combined, exercise and healthy eating also have a positive impact. A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables with a regular intake of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and antioxidants supposedly encourages higher levels of well-being and creativity.
3. Be curious and pay attention
When you depend on your mind for true creativity and innovation, you cannot be on autopilot and systemize everything, or be too methodical about your daily process and how you find inspiration—your mind becomes accustomed to familiar paths, and this will lead to the same results over and over again. It’s okay to be disciplined, but you also need to be open to breaking away, spontaneity and receptiveness to the world around you—even if it’s outside of your industry or comfort zone.
‘There is no other avenue to cultivating creative work aside from impassioned curiosity.’ — Faisal Hoque, Fast Company
It becomes important then, regardless of the creative medium you work in, for your mind to learn how to be more curious if it isn’t already. Curiosity is the secret sauce to an interesting and creative outcome. It’s probably even more important than some of your passions.
The more regularly you practice curiosity, the stronger and more attuned your creative mind is.
The good news is; curiosity is available to you at all times. It’s accessible from anywhere. Whether that’s through observation, exploration, or asking questions, you need to have a child-like stubbornness to be able to tap into your curiosity every single day.
You have to be vigilant, and you have to be paying attention. You have to be optimistic that you’ll find something interesting or learn something new. You have to be fearless. You have to be persistent in going down new paths. Always take pictures, videos or notes of the things that inspire you. Discover it, record it, and your curious mind will thank you for it.
Once you accept and acknowledge your commitment to maintaining a healthier creative mind, consistency with these habits can go a long way to keep the momentum going. The benefits you’ll get from switching off, exercising and being curious on a regular basis will have a massive impact on your health, and your career.