Crank Up Creativity in 5 Almost-Too-Easy Steps

08/27/2016 04:10 am ET Updated Aug 27, 2016
photo by Montine Blank

Are you ready to learn how to tap into an unstoppable flow of creativity? OK …

Here we go!
Grab your toes.
We’re off on a ride
to see what she knows… 

Step One:  Look in the mirror and shout “Move!”

Haha! What? Wait… why aren’t you laughing? Don’t you get it? YOU are the numero uno person-o blocking your creative side. You think you don’t have a creative side? Of course you do. Healthy humans all do. Don’t believe me? Fine, stop reading.

 

(Hi there. Still here? I win. (*squink*)

How can I be so sure you are creative? Human beings have ONLY survived as a species because we are creative. How else do you think we’ve lived through thousands of years of claws, cold, and car rides with small children?

In fact, experts say 98% of us are born with genius level divergent thinking! Want to learn more? Hear about the findings from George Land and Beth Jarman from the exceptionally fabulous year 1968 and come back to me, because I’m limited to 1000 or so words here.

Good glory, I can still hear some of you ranting, “I am not creative, whatsoever!” Ok, for you lot, we are getting personal. Please answer this question: “Who dreams for you at night?” Thought so. Take a moment and let that sink in. Now isn’t that nice?

So, to sum it up, Step One in boosting creativity is to move beyond your ridiculous reflection that you aren’t creative.

Step 2:  Stop Thinking.

Whoa, Woah, Whoah, there’s not enough weed in the world …” says California. That may be true, but hear me out.

Thinking is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the process of considering or reasoning about something” or “the action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts”. Either of these suggests that by thinking you are processing information, and working something out, which leads to deciding. Decisions generally embody a judgment, expectation, and/or solution. Once you have “decided”, you tend to “close the book” on a matter. You are no longer curious, open, and exploring, so your mental portal to receiving new information, including your own creative insights, is shut.

I could also express this in the opposite way (* Note: This is a very short foreshadowing!), as in Step 2: “Stay Curious”.  

Step 3. Try Doing the Opposite (*Bam!)

Our brains are shrinking. I knew mine was for sure, but it turns out all of ours are … and have been ever since we wandered out of the wild and built a way of life with fewer survival challenges, shared agriculture, and reality TV. In fact, “all domesticated animals have smaller brain mass compared to their wild cousins” according to Deane Alban.

For activities to help stimulate your brain, they have to be both complex and novel. So, while following our everyday routines does not get our juices flowing, changing up routines and consciously learning new things can help. To grow more gray matter and tap into creativity, we can very simply switch our brains back over to learning mode by doing the things we normally do, but in the opposite way. 

How? Start simple: Dry, comb, brush, wipe, shave, dress and wave with the opposite hand. Well, maybe not before a first date. 

Step 4:  Play

Instead of wriggling around in worry, trying to produce perfection, or taking ourselves ever so seriously, let’s be in and create from a space of play.  Whether we’re making art or planning a dinner party, let’s add a dash of silly into the mix. Why not make things more fun?

Research has long linked play to creativity. In 1967, the year before an exceptionally fabulous year, Brandon Sutton-Smith connected tinkering and play with a higher number of imaginative solutions. More recently, a 2010 study found play enhanced the results of creative and standard tasks. You know what they determined overall? Play leads to more willingness try new things without being afraid to fail. That’s another key ingredient for creativity and divergent thinking.

What lesson may we take from this? Simple! Let’s PLAY!

What did you say?
No time to play?
Life’s too short;
You’d better find a way!

Summing up Step 4, Make room in your day for Play!

Step 5:  Breathe

Stress crushes creativity. Flat punches it in the gut and sucks the wind right out. So, our last almost-too-easy step is to relax with the breath.

All that talk floating around about the breath being the key to calm...?  It really works.  In fact, conscious-breathing breaks can impact digestion, reduce anxiety, kick up gray matter growth, and lower blood pressure. (Did you just hear wind chimes? Kidding!)

Want to see for yourself? Try this right now: 
1. Sit down
2. Close your eyes (of course after you’ve read all the steps!)
3. Inhale for a count of 4
4. Hold your breath for a count of 7
5. Exhale on a count of 8
6. Repeat two more times

Let those deep breaths settle in.  Notice the difference?  Guess what - you can do this any time of your day and it’s good for calming stress, giving your nervous system a break, and relieving anxiety.

You’ve just given your body a treat and your brain a break.  Try the 4-7-8 conscious breathing break daily for a week and see what happens. 

We made it!
All 5. Done. Check it:

1. Talk to yourself
2. Stay curious
3. Try the Opposite
4. Play
5. Breathe

(Told you they were easy.)

++++

To learn more about boosting creativity, download Paint Awake, a free mini-ebook and activity guide and sign up for bi-weekly twinkly tidbits from “Rising Creative.”

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS