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We’ve all experienced that wonderful feeling before, the one where we roll out of bed buzzing with boundless energy, coming up with ingenious new ideas left, right and centre throughout the entire day, and go to sleep with your mind whirring.
But then there’s the opposite.
The days when nothing seems to come to us naturally.
The days when we have zero motivation.
The days when we just can’t get our creative juices flowing.
Wouldn’t you say that these “Test Days” are more common than the days when everything comes to you easily?
So, in order to be successful, it’s vital that we find a way to unleash our inner creativity and overcome them, right? Here are seven excellent tips to help you do so, some slightly more extravagant (such as #4), and some which will definitely surprise you, such as…
#1 – Showers
Have you ever noticed that (conveniently, as we have no phone, pen or paper to hand) we’ll often come up with our best ideas in the shower?
A relaxed state of mind is hugely important for being creative, and if we’ve had a long, hard day at work thinking about a problem, the calming sensation of warm water pouring over our body can activate what scientists call the “incubation period”. This welcome distraction allows us to disengage from fixating over a problem, and puts our minds at ease, allowing them to subconsciously work to solve the issue. Warm water also triggers higher dopamine activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of our brains, the area responsible for generating creative thoughts.
So, if you want to spark creativity—even after a tough day—hop in the shower and see where your mind takes you.
Even if you’re skeptical now, the results might surprise you!
#2 – Exercise
When we lift weights at the gym, run around our local park, or even bang out some press ups in our bedrooms, we’re boosting the blood flow circulation in our bodies, which leaves us feeling sharp and energetic, not only physically but mentally.
The endorphins released during a workout leave us with that unbeatable natural buzz, which is why exercising early in the morning sets us up to have a great day, in which our creative juices are already stimulated.
Picture these two scenarios:
Steve snoozes his alarm at 7am, not getting up until nearly 8am, by which time he’s running late for work. He wolfs down some breakfast before rushing out, tie askew and no plan for the day, making it to his office just before 9am, where he spends the following eight hours tired and unfocused, counting down the hours until he can leave.
Bill gets himself straight up out of bed when his alarm goes off at 5:30am. He drinks some water, stretches a little, then jogs to the gym where he crushes an intense workout until around 7am. By the time he’s come home and showered, it’s not even 7:30am, so he has time to enjoy a nutritious, tasty breakfast and mentally prepare for the day ahead, heading out to work unhurriedly, where he is focused and productive.
Which person do you think had a creative edge throughout their day?
#3 – Consuming Great Content
Which books do you read?
What podcasts do you listen to?
Who do you follow on social media?
You can either choose to fill your mind with worthless junk, or with valuable content that will in turn stimulate your own ideas, plans and projects.
#4 – Travel
Okay, so maybe travel isn’t a simple, quick-fix tip to help our creativity, but it is one of the best ways to help us get out of a slump when we feel our motivation dwindling over an extended period of time. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things all inspire unique thoughts and perspectives, which we can apply to whatever area in life we desire!
What’s more, the mere prospect of an exciting trip in the near future fuels us to think more creatively in the weeks prior to going away, let alone afterwards when we can reflect on and utilize whatever we’ve learned.
Travel isn’t the easiest or cheapest method in this article, but it is perhaps the most profound. It’s an ideal opportunity to take risks and get out of your comfort zone, the ultimate way to overcome any feelings of lethargy.
#5 – Journaling
The process of moving thoughts from our minds onto paper (physical or electronic) is incredibly cathartic, allowing us to process the jam-packed days events and make sense of them. From there, we can act on such reflection, channelling our creativity into ways of improving the next day.
When you journal (or do your first draft of any creative writing or similar) it is best to write without stopping to correct punctuation, grammar, or spelling. This halts your creative flow, that rhythm when you aren’t overthinking but instead letting the words come naturally.
If you’re doing something more formal, of course you should read over and check that first draft, but don’t do so initially. Allow all those thoughts to come tumbling out on paper!
#6 – Fresh Air
Being stuck behind a desk for eight hours a day is hardly conducive to unleashing your imagination. In fact, many workers report feeling confined and uninspired. If that’s you, take fifteen minutes to go for a walk nearby, get some breeze on your face, and allow yourself to destress.
There’s a reason Steve Jobs always conducts his meetings as an outdoor walk. The combination of fresh air and exercise is scientifically proven to improve mental wellbeing, which in turn aids our creativity.
#7 – Visualize
Yes, visualization does work. You may scoff, and think it’s a waste of time, some wishy-washy idealistic nonsense, but focusing your brain on exactly what you want to create is very beneficial to getting you “in the zone”.
Do it however suits you: eyes closed or open, lights on or off, music playing or silence, and then try to specifically imagine what you want to achieve. It could be giving a valuable team meeting at work, inventing a product to improve the lives of thousands of people, or creating a masterful storyline for your next novel.
The more specific the better—try to lose yourself in the visualization, which is a much trickier skill than it sounds. As a result, your Reticular Activating System (RAS) will be more fine-tuned to spot things that contribute to your vision throughout the day, and you’ll be more likely to notice a stimulus for a brilliant idea.
So there you have it—seven ways to unleash creativity and overcome the dreaded lethargy of those “Test Days”. Which will you implement in your own life going forward?
Let us know in the comments below, then take action on what you’ve learned today.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.