"Be more creative!” is number one on many a New Year’s resolution list every year. It may sound as easy as picking up a blank piece of paper and a marker, but we all too often get seduced by the distractions of daily life, lose focus, and get caught up in the grind of daily life. How terribly uninspired!
At Yahoo DIY we are always recommitting to our relationship to creativity. We’re rounding up what we’ve learned to be the best ways to boost creativity so that you too can get (and stay) inspired and creative in 2015!
Photo via Tinker Lab
If you think you need to be born with a creativity gene, think again. Writer Jonah Lehrer debunks some myths about creativity in a Wall Street Journal essay, where he argues that anyone can be the next Yo-Yo Ma or Steve Jobs.
"Creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work. "
Lehrer follows his insightful essay with 10 creativity hacks and we’ve hacked those down to a few of our favorites for you here:
Surround yourself in the color blue. Blue “leads to more relaxed and associative thinking. Red, on other hand, makes people more alert and aware, so it is a better backdrop for solving analytic problems.”
Get groggy. ”According to a study published last month, people at their least alert time of day — think of a night person early in the morning—performed far better on various creative puzzles, sometimes improving their success rate by 50 percent. Grogginess has creative perks.”
Day Dream. ”Research led by Jonathan Schooler at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that people who daydream more score higher on various tests of creativity.”
Be childlike in your thinking. ”When subjects are told to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds, they score significantly higher on tests of divergent thinking, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.
Laugh your head off. ”When people are exposed to a short video of stand-up comedy, they solve about 20 percent more insight puzzles.”
Lose the cubicle. ”According to new study, volunteers performed significantly better on a standard test of creativity when they were seated outside a 5-foot-square workspace, perhaps because they internalized the metaphor of thinking outside the box. The lesson? Your cubicle is holding you back.”
Listen to music is always a boon to creativity. Shana Lebowitz reports for The Greatist in her piece “36 Surprising Ways to Boost Creativity For Free” that listening to music while we work ”stimulates the part of our brain that controls motor actions, emotions, and creativity.” Motivational speaker Jeffrey Baumgartner suggests listening to Bach but you may want to choose Mozart first. The book The Mozart Effect argues that listening to Mozart can increase creativity, concentration, and other cognitive functions. So, start blasting the classical music!
Sleep! Jeffrey Baumgartner, like many who work in the creative motivation field, stresses the importance of sleep. Sleep is essential for refreshing and sorting through the muck of our waking conscious. There are studies to prove sleep’s positive effect on creativity. Sleep facilitates insight and increases cognitive flexibility. When you’re stuck in a rut, even a short power nap can help reorganize thinking!
Take notes and try journaling. Theseare powerful, readily available tools to record ideas as they occur. And while you’re at it, do it with pen to paper. Freehand writing (on paper, not dictating into a smartphone) is often suggested by many creative coaches to get the mind out of its own way and to just let it flow, via movement of the hand. Renowned creative coach Julia Cameron writes in her book “The Artist’s Way,” about the power of daily journaling. She coined the term “morning pages" for this process of free-flowing thought to stimulate and release creative juices.
Photo via Thomas Alexander Books
"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages* - they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.” - Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Explore the link betwen exercise and creativity. There are loads of scholarly articles on the subject. In other words, get moving! It can be as simple as getting outside and taking a walk or a spin class. The change of atmosphere will be sure to shake up perspective and if you can get outside, even better. Nature, fresh air and movement is an invigorating combo for your brain.
Practice mental exercises, too. Baumgartner also recommends keep our minds sharp with mental fitness as well. “Exercise your brain. Brains, like bodies, need exercise to keep fit. If you don’t exercise your brain, it will get flabby and useless." Of course reading is always a door to keeping creativity fluid. Books exercise your brain, provide inspiration, and fill you will information that allows you to make creative connections easily.
Get the dictionary out. Another exercise Baumgartner suggests is to “open a dictionary, randomly select a word, and then try to formulate ideas incorporating this word.
"You’d be surprised how well this works. The concept is based on a simple but little known truth: freedom inhibits creativity."