Being busy is killing our ability to think creatively
By Holly Snowdon
When was the last time you stopped, sat down and did literally nothing? And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. No phones, no tablets, no TVs, nothing. Chances are you can’t remember. In an age of digital domination and constant connectivity, we seem to be almost incapable to unwind and ‘just be’.
But is this inability to properly relax more detrimental than we might think?
Evidently, yes, it is. Recent research suggests that little good comes from being constantly preoccupied and having all of these digital distractions playing on our minds and amongst the many aspects of life which suffer because of this, it is our creativity that takes the biggest hit. In fact, I could go as far as to say constant busyness destroys creativity…
This has been further evidenced by study undertaken by neuroscientists at the Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center at Bar-Ilan University, Tel-Aviv, who reveal that ‘a high mental load consistently diminished the originality and creativity of the response’.
It doesn’t help that, in our frenzied, over stimulated world, we are almost programmed into believing that being constantly busy, multitaskers and essentially, workaholics, can help to enhance productivity and long-term fulfillment. Sadly, this is far from the case.
So how can we avoid this damaging lifestyle and state of mind? I won’t deny it’s certainly not easy! Especially when faced with tight deadlines and the pressures of life in general, it really is difficult (although not impossible) to completely stop everything! However, slowing down a little and taking some ‘zen’ time out is crucial in terms of performing to your best. Below are a few tips on some habits we can adopt to help slow down our racing minds from time to time.
Mindfulness and meditation have certainly been a couple of the main buzzwords in recent years, and for good reason! An abundance of research indicates the positive effects of meditation/mindfulness on creativity, and overall brainpower. And whilst they may have been associated with ‘tree hugging hippies’ in the past, increasing numbers of people and businesses are recognising the benefits of these practices. In fact, specific studies have been carried out, which prove that those practicing mindfulness or meditation displayed enhanced levels of creativity and were able to solve problems in novel ways.
Companies such as General Mills and Google have already clocked on to the benefits of these practices, by providing members of staff with mediation rooms and in-house mindfulness programmes. Even Walt Disney encouraged meditation in the workplace, noticing a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. One of our own suppliers told us today that they start every day with a meditation session – it started as a trial and now all the staff ask for it if it is overlooked!
So, with this in mind, perhaps try and dedicate a little time to incorporate a bit of meditation throughout the day, taking short breaks, before/after work and on your lunch break - it certainly seems like it’s worth the effort!
Unwind with some music
There is a reason why listening to music has been linked to enhanced levels of creativity and focus. Multitudes of studies have proven that when listening to music, we think faster and clearer, thus enabling us to focus and design better. For example, a study undertaken by researchers from the University of Helsinki revealed that classical music has a tempo-regulating effect, generating feelings of pleasure and relaxation. It is this relaxed state which helps spark creativity.
Even the great Albert Einstein himself made sure to take time to chill out and listen to Mozart on breaks from intense thinking sessions. So why not take a leaf out of Einstein’s book and try putting together a playlist of your favourite tunes? This is sure to give you a little lift and keeps your creative lateral thinking buzzing along.
Have you ever spent hours at your desk desperately trying to come up with a creative idea, yet coming up with absolutely nothing? Then, during a lunchtime stroll to the shops, you get hit by an array of awesome light bulb moments?
If you’ve truly hit a wall, there’s no point torturing yourself, going round in circles stuck in the office. Head outside for a leisurely walk to really get the creative juices flowing. I mean, if it works for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, then it’s definitely worth a shot! Go and find inspiration in the great outdoors!
A study by Stanford researchers shows us that walking and aerobic exercise in general boosts creative inspiration and that protects our long-term cognitive function. Plus, it’s an easy way to keep your fitness levels in check!
All in all, if you want to come up with something truly awesome and inspired, it is much more achievable when in a calm, relaxed and tranquil state. So perhaps it’s time to stop, breathe and take a little time to chill in whichever way works for you…. The world won’t stop turning if you do!