7 Surprising and Scientifically Proven Ways to Help You Be More Creative
Dreaming of writing the next Gone Girl? Or trying to impress the boss with some creative problem solving? Maybe you just want to add a touch of imagination into your everyday routine? Get those creative juices flowing with one of these surprising and research-backed tips.
Dim the Lights
In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, a group of German researchers found that turning down the lights reduced inhibitions, thereby triggering a more explorative and imaginary way of thinking. (Kinda makes sense, right?) So next time you want to boost your creative thinking, try dimming the lights. Now there’s a bright idea.
Have a Messy Desk
Neat freaks, take note. A study published in Psychological Science put participants in either a messy or tidy room and then asked them to come up with a novel idea about a Ping-Pong ball. While both groups came up with a similar number of ideas, those in the messier room were deemed by a panel of independent raters to have significantly more creative ideas. Just make sure to keep the clutter to your home office (and you know, not at your job).
Look at Something Blue
Do you feel your most creative when you’re at the beach and gazing out into the ocean? According to a University of British Columbia study, the color blue enhances performance on creative tasks. Researchers think that this is because blue reminds people of the sky, the ocean and water, which in turn is associated with “openness, peace and tranquility.” This then translates into feeling more imaginative and exploratory. Interestingly, they found that the color red improved performance on more detail-oriented tasks.
Have a Glass of Wine
In one study by the University of Illinois in Chicago, participants who reached a 0.075 blood alcohol level (just below the legal driving threshold) were better at creative problem solving than sober participants. This might be because a moderate amount of booze relaxes a person’s attention focus, thereby helping them find connections between remotely related ideas. We’ll cheers to that.
Go to a Coffee Shop
No wonder your local Starbucks is always so busy. Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people were most creative when there was a moderate level of background noise (around 70 decibels, like in a coffee shop). That’s because the sounds are a little distracting, which encourages people to think a little harder and outside the box. A quieter environment (around 50 decibels, like in an office) was found to be better for projects that needed extreme focus (say, doing your taxes).
Switch Up Your Breakfast
Do you always pour your cereal into the bowl first and then milk? Try doing it the other way around. Or opt for a cup of tea instead of your usual cup of joe. When Dutch researchers asked some participants to make a breakfast sandwich the normal way and others in an unusual way (by placing the filling on a plate, buttering their bread and then placing the bread butter-side down on the plate), those in the latter group scored the highest in cognitive flexibility. The idea being that forcing the brain out of everyday habits and into a different way of thinking can help trigger new ideas.
Getting your om on can encourage divergent thinking (a style of thinking that produces new ideas), according to a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology. Scientists suggested that this was thanks to meditation’s ability to increase positive mood (which in turn boosts creativity). Another study published in Thinking Skills and Creativity found that activities like meditation and yoga are especially good for encouraging creativity in introverts (because this helps people feel more relaxed). Fascinating.