Exhale: You needn't keep a compost of spoiled fruit around to do something great. While a strike of creative genius can't necessarily be forced, there are a few clever ways to get your juices flowing:
Use your nose.
Maybe Schiller was on to something. When your head's not working, your nose might be of assitance. One study found those who were exposed to rosemary aroma had higher concentration and cognitive performance. Cinnamon and vanilla scents have also been linked to increased creativity -- so open that spice cabinet and take a long, deliberate whiff.
Do something utterly monotonous.
You curse your day job for being oh-so-dull, but it might be just the place for your best ideas to incubate. One 2012 study showed that performing somewhat mindless tasks -- think assembly line -- liberates the mind to wander. The research speculates that this kind of subconscious thought may enhance creative thinking. Even if your job is incomprehensibly riveting (you lucky thing), you might benefit from the mundane. Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics, would often count pea plants and honeybees. Most would argue the scientist reached great epiphany.
Turn off the telly.
Though we all feel inexplicably inspired when watching bachelorette meltdowns , this kind of mindless activity is not one that fosters brilliance. One study reveals that watching such low-brow (sorry) entertainment actually makes us dumber. Called media priming, this concept suggests watching or reading a particular action will stimulate similar thought and behavior. This isn't all bad news: The opposite behavior garners the same results. So, watching (or reading) intelligent, creative or smart fodder could have a positive impact on your behavior. Feel free to get a little pretentious the next time you need fresh perspective and indulge in one of these books by candlelight.
Keep a dry-erase marker by your bathroom mirror.
If you haven't experienced it for yourself, you've at least heard it before: Our best ideas often materialize in the shower. Unfortunately, we tend lose the insight by the time we towel dry. Take a tip from Austin Kleon, author of "Steal Like An Artist," to ensure that fleck of genius doesn't escape you. "If I have an idea in the shower, I write it down on my Aqua Notes pad, and if I have one after I step out of the shower, I’ll use a dry-erase marker to write it on the bathroom mirror," the artist told The Huffington Post. The waterproof notepad and the accessible pen provide a dual-insurance that'll keep both your ideas and you (no accidental shower-slips when you go to grab a pen) safe when sagacity strikes.
Write by hand.
Scribbling something down when your devices are dead is one thing, but deliberately using a pen gives some permanence to your thoughts. In ink, a phrase or idea has the chance to live -- an opportunity to stew, fester and grow into something more. On the screen, with the quick double-tap of the delete button, it vanishes.
Even more, you'll be using more brainpower when you choose to write by hand: Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says the act stimulates a much larger portion of the brain’s thinking and "working memory" regions than does typing.
Writing by hand might also pull you out of routine (since we're all so mercilessly plugged-in) and incite something new within. As author Lee Rourke writes in The Guardian, "The constant tap-tap-tap-tap on the keyboard reminds me of all the offices I've worked in. The sound bores into me, it fills me with an anxiety I could do without. I feel like I'm signing off invoices rather than writing my next novel." Perhaps paper is the escape you need.
Also on HuffPost:
"Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I've had." That's what Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates -- the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/ray-dalio/" target="_hplink">world's largest hedge fund firm</a> -- <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">explained in 2012</a>. Dalio is in good company. More and more leaders in the corporate world have been taking note of the benefits of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/meditation/" target="_hplink">meditation</a>, which include <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/31/mindfulness-meditation-cortisol-stress-levels_n_2965197.html" target="_hplink">lower stress levels</a>, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100414184220.htm" target="_hplink">improved cognitive functioning</a>, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102317.htm" target="_hplink"> creative thinking</a> and <a href="http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/10/if-youre-too-busy-to-meditate.html" target="_hplink">productivity</a>, and even improved <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/mindfulness-meditation-benefits-health_n_3016045.html" target="_hplink">physical health</a>. A number of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, AOL, Apple and Aetna, offer meditation and mindfulness classes for employees -- and the top executives of many major corporations say that meditation has made them better leaders. Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and former Google.org director Larry Brilliant are also among the executives advocating the mindfulness practice. Here are 10 influential business leaders who say meditation has helped them achieve (and sustain) a high level of success.
1. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">tweeted</a> that he was trying out <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley. The media tycoon <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">said on Twitter in April</a>, "Everyone recommends, not that easy to get started, but said to improve everything!"
2. Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems
Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a "digital detox." In her previous role as Cisco's head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank"> told the New York Times in 2012</a> that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all. “It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank">she said</a>. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”
3. Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project
The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, <a href="http://csp.org/practices/meditation/docs/schwartz-meditation.html" target="_blank">according to his book <em>What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America</em></a>. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance. "Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy -- physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually -- requires refueling it intermittently," <a href="http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/12/how-to-accomplish-more-by-doin.html" target="_blank">Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog</a>.
4. Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, <a href="http://www.inc.com/articles/201110/more-and-more-entrepreneurs-meditate-how-and-why-you-should-too.html" target="_blank">according to Inc. Magazine</a>. At<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> this year's Wisdom 2.0 conference</a>, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> told Kornfield</a> that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (<em>metta</em>) meditation practice.
5. Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.
An outspoken advocate of <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, Oprah -- recently <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2013/06/26/oprah-winfrey-regains-no-1-slot-on-forbes-2013-list-of-the-most-powerful-celebrities/" target="_blank">named</a> the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes -- has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She's also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate. After a meditation in Iowa last year, <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Oprah-on-Stillness-and-Meditation-Oprah-Visits-Fairfield-Iowa#ixzz2XoJNWPAR" target="_blank">Oprah said</a>, "I walked away feeling fuller than when I'd come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is -- still -- the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life."
6. Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund
Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">living in a Himalayan ashram</a> and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi. In his <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">2013 commencement address</a> at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity -- a state of mental calm and composure.
7. Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA
In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said</a> that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity. "Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity," <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said Dalio</a>. "It's also given me peace and health."
8. Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the <a href="http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/" target="_blank">David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace</a>. "You don't have to believe in meditation for it to work," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russell-simmons/why-i-meditate_b_474689.html" target="_blank">Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog</a>. "You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, 'God helps those who help themselves.' My advice? Meditate."
9. Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.
There is a dedicated <a href="http://www.gmcr.com/continuous-learning.html" target="_blank">meditation room</a> at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner. "If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting," <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aR2aP.X_Bflw" target="_blank">he told Bloomberg in 2008</a>. "Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks."
10. Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group
And last but not least, Arianna Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her "joy triggers" in a <a href="http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/arianna-huffington-the-connector/#1" target="_blank">2011 <em>Vogue </em>feature</a>. Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2013/06/8530708/her-cooper-square-hq-arianna-huffington-goes-even-bigger-yoga-meditati" target="_blank">weekly classes</a> for AOL and Huffington Post employees. Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. "Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/corporate-wellness_b_2903222.html" target="_blank">she wrote in a recent blog</a>.