boost creativity

5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

I’m an author. A fantasy author, actually, with three books published already. Needless to say, I have always had a natural proclivity to creativity. But I am also a holistic health coach and a body builder. Writing fantasy novels is my creative outlet to keep me mentally healthy. Regardless of this predisposition to creativity, I have found that my imagination is more than just what I feature in my writing. If you follow my channel here or on Instagram (@michaelethies), you know that what I eat in the kitchen is far from boring. It’s not your usual “chicken, broccoli, and rice” type of diet. From pizza omelets to ice cream, or homemade donuts to red velvet waffles, I do not restrict my diet at all. I just make healthier, more creative choices in the kitchen.

In this blog post, I want to share with you five ways to boost creativity so that you can push past mental plateaus in your life, business, or whatever creative endeavor you are currently pursuing.

Before we begin, though, let’s see how creative you actually are. Here are three words for you: pine/crab/sauce. Now I want you to find a fourth word that complements all of them.

Did you guess it? Don’t worry if you can’t, I’ll give the answer later in this article, but association tests such as these are one way psychologists measure creativity. And if you cannot guess the answer to this question above, then perhaps it is time to start thinking about ways that you can boost your own creativity. Keep reading to learn how to boost creativity.

walking

1 - Walking

This is probably one of the most documented ways to increase our creativity, but with the hustle and bustle of today’s society, fewer and fewer people go for leisurely strolls. Instead, we prefer to let our fingers stroll through the newsfeeds of Instagram and TikTok. Or, if we do walk, we are often multi-tasking and on social media, listening to something, texting a friend, etc.

There was a great study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that did four experiments to measure the effect walking has on creativity. While I won’t get into the whole study here, you can find it by going here. (You’ll need a log in to access it. I get this provided for me through my master’s enrollment at University of Florida.) The researchers tracked how creative a person was when they were seated, when they were walking, and whether indoors or outdoors had an effect on them. It was shown that walking outside “produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.” Analogies are a writing device used to compare one thing to another. To quote from the abstract of that study, “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”  

In fact, walking has been shown time and time again to increase creativity. The University of Stanford also conducted studies which echoed these published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology. You can read more about that by visiting this link

journaling

2 - Journaling in the Morning

While pursuing my certification as a holistic health coach, one of the lectures I watched was from author Julia Cameron. She explains one of her creative practices she preaches in her book The Artist’s Way. This creative practice is called “Morning Pages.” What Morning Pages are is journaling in the morning. First thing after getting out of bed, not even fully awake yet. By doing this, we can access the unconscious part of our brain. During this time, write down whatever comes to your mind and try to write two to three pages worth of material every day. It should function as a stream of consciousness. What that means is that you should write down whatever comes to mind. Avoid censoring yourself, overthinking, or editing: simply write. Slowly or quickly. It is up to you.

While you can journal anytime of day, morning tends to be the most effective because you still have all your creative reserves at your disposal. Your mind isn’t fried from a busy day at work, and if you’re like me and wake up at 5 a.m. you will have no one around to distract you. It’s just you versus the paper. Go. If you’re stuck and don’t know what to write, consider writing about any of these three things.

  • Your dreams. Your memory of dreams is strongest when you first wake up.
  • Focus on gratitude. Write down a list of ten things you’re grateful for from the day before. Remind yourself what is going well in your life to set yourself up positively for the day ahead.
  • Goals. Perhaps the easiest way to write is to make this an exercise in jotting down what you want to accomplish that day. What would make that specific day look like a win to you?
reading

3 - Reading

Reading is one of the best ways to foster imagination. When we read, we open ourselves to new ideas. New worlds. New facts. New people. The more we read, the better we can expand our knowledge. Think about it, when reading a fantasy novel, you are reading a make-believe place. The author is writing words, trying to describe something to you that may or may not exist. As a reader, you have to take those words and deconstruct them in your mind and try and visualize what the author is talking about. If the author has done a good job, then you’ll be able to envision his or her world that they’ve built. And you, the reader, have just tapped into your power of creativity and imagination.

Non-fiction books are just as vital to enhancing our creativity. (If you’re looking for recommendations, consider checking out my list of the top five non-fiction books you should read.) Non-fiction books gives us another way of understanding the world and fills us with new ideas. It may challenge our current thought process and help us to reshape our own way of thinking. We may learn something entirely new that we can implement in our life to further enhance the quality of the life we live.

good ideas and creativityMy biggest advice to people here is not to just read one kind of book. Ready many. Read as many as you can because what will happen is that one thought from one book may be lodged away in your brain and randomly it will collide with another thought you will have obtained in a different book. This serendipitous collision will produce a good idea. And that good idea is the byproduct of your creativity. To start understanding more about creativity, I would recommend the book Where Good Ideas Come From that discusses this method of idea creation as well as many others. 

4 - Having a Good Mood

Do you know what the ACC is?

The ACC is the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). The ACC has quite the unique spot in the brain. It connects the emotional part of the brain to the cognitive part of the brain. It’s a part that handles error correction by detecting conflicting signals in the brain. Moreover, it is the part that was activated when I asked you the association question from earlier.

The answer to that question, by the way, is apple. “Pineapple / crabapple / applesauce.”

The ACC fires up when we entertain off the wall ideas, aka our creativity. Researchers have found that this part of the brain is more engaged when we are in a particularly good mood. And that makes sense considering its location in the brain. This also is true for the opposite. A bad mood increases the analytical thought process we have, lowering our ability to think creatively.

This is actually four tips. All of these four things will all help foster that positive environment that the ACC thrives in.

  • Gratitude. Practicing gratitude puts us in a great place for positivity, and positivity increases our mood. Daily affirmations through meditation are a great way to practice this and the next tip.
  • Mindfulness. This is a great way to teach the brain to be calm, to walk when it wants to run. Surely, you’ve heard the term “have an open mind” about something? Well, when we “open our minds” we allow for more creative ideas to enter us, and thus enhance our creativity.
  • Exercise. Not only is this great for our physical health, but exercise has been shown to decrease cortisol levels while increasing serotonin, endorphins, dopamine. The increase of these “feel-good” chemicals in our body is probably why a lot of us like looking at ourselves in front of a mirror during or after a training session.
  • A good night’s rest. Sleep may be one of the most underrated activities we can perform. “I’ll sleep when I die,” says the busy beaver who thinks he is going to accomplish more and doesn’t have time to take a break. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is our recharge mechanism, and as the day goes on, our creative resources dwindle, meaning that sleep is one of the few ways we can recharge that creative battery at night.

5 - Talking

I am timid to include this one in my list of five because, compared to the other four, this one doesn’t have as much scientific backing, but have you ever talked out your problems to yourself before? I have. And my guess is that sometime during your life, you, too, have also talked to yourself and stumbled upon an Ah-hah eureka moment. This moment may not have been so much to yourself as to a silent partner on the other end of the phone line, but it was that combination between silence, your rambling, and a sudden thought that allowed you to have a creative idea.

Steve Jobs once said “creativity is just connecting things.” And he is right on many accounts about that. When we talk out our problems with others, the likelihood of us “connecting” things goes up. Whether that is through our own volition, or perhaps some piece of insight that is offered by the other person in the conversation. I cannot begin to tell you how many good ideas I’ve had just through simple walking and talking with friends and family. Many of the plot problems in my novel have been solved by bouncing ideas off of other author friends, and some of my biggest business decisions I’ve made has simply come from walking and talking with my mom, who has always been my silent supporter.

Whether it is with yourself or with someone else, I highly recommend finding a conversation buddy that you can come to when you need to talk out problems. Chances are, you’ll solve them.

Conclusion

Mental health is just one aspect of our overall holistic health, and I’m hoping that with these five methods, you’ll have a success in fostering your creativity and mental health. To learn more about holistic health and what it includes, head over to my article What is Holistic Health.

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