Looking to be a little more creative in your everyday? Whether you’re trying to get back in touch with your inner artist or looking for a new outlet, here are 12 ways to find your new creative spark in your day-to-day life.
1. Journal / Doodle.
Journaling as you begin your day is a great way to capture new ideas and boost your creativity throughout the rest of it. Thomas Edison practiced this habit; every morning he would wake up and write in his journal before spending the remainder of it in creative activity. His notebooks were filled with sketches and observations, project ideas, and a vast spectrum of technologies and inventions.
If you’re not a fan of writing, it might still be worth jotting your thoughts, dreams, or ideas down as a doodle. Experts say that spontaneous-style drawing can relieve stress, improve memory, and help you think more creatively -- all great reasons to start your day with a pen or pencil in hand.
2. Stimulate Your Whole Brain.
Want to think more creatively? You’ve got to use your brain...all of it! Neuroscientists recently discovered that stimulating your whole brain, not just one side or the other, leads to more creative thought patterns. Our brains are wired to delegate mundane or repetitive tasks to our unconscious mind, so if you want to get your whole-brain online, you have to make it a habit to do things that challenge you. Learn a new language, master a new musical instrument, meet new people, or put yourself in unusual environments. Pay attention to new information, music and visuals that inspire you, and take up new physical activities if you are able. If you give your brain new things to focus on, you’ll spark and strengthen new neural wiring, giving you a leg-up when it’s time to think more innovatively.
With constant social media notifications, calls, emails, texts and other distractions, your devices can wreak havoc on your focus -- and fragmented attention take away from your ability to be creative. Set aside your mobile phones for specific hours of the day or make your creative space a device/distraction free zone. You’ll find it easier to get into the creative “flow” and may find your work and productivity improved along the way.
4. Increase Your Dopamine.
Researchers have found that the areas of the brain that inspire creativity also produce dopamine, which may explain why your a-ha moments quite literally feel good. But dopamine isn’t just a reward for insightful thoughts, it’s also one of the main ingredients in creative thinking itself. Boost your dopamine and you might find yourself more curious and willing to learn, which in turn can help you connect the dots when it’s time to be creative. Try listening to music, meditating, or consuming protein, iron, niacin, folate and/or vitamin B6 to boost your dopamine naturally and sustainably.
5. Increase Your Heart Rate.
Exercise isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your mind, too. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise has been found to increase our ability to think creatively for up to two hours after a workout. Even low-to-moderate exercise can help boost your brain power - experts say that even a simple walk can do wonders for your ability to problem solve.
6. Listen to Music and Ambient Sounds.
A group of researchers at Oxford University found that those exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise significantly out-performed those in the other groups. Enjoying a little ambient noise such as the sound ocean waves, coffeehouse chatter, or cars driving by can help you think more creatively. Not a fan of ambient noise? Light acoustic and lyric-free music can also help unleash your creative mind.
7. Get Fresh Air & Sunshine.
If you’ve ever felt mentally refreshed after some time outdoors, that’s not a coincidence. In addition to increasing your dopamine levels, fresh air and sunshine are also associated with increased Vitamin D, blood flow, and new stimuli. A University of Kansas study found that unplugging and heading outdoors increased creativity by up to 50 percent. So put on those shoes and head outdoors!
Meditation can be a great way to clear out cluttered thoughts and make room for creativity. It can help re-center our emotions, think more independently, and stay mindful in our every day. In his book, Mindfulness for Creativity, author Danny Penman writes that meditation can also help us tap into ‘mental resilience,’ allowing us to more easily and readily bounce back from setbacks -- an important quality to develop when you are thinking and working with brand-new ideas.
9. Create a Vision Board.
Vision boards are a great way to channel your inner creative. Whether you are working with mixed media or creating one digitally on Pinterest, being able to fill your board with colors, places and/or ideas can help you stay in touch with your motivation and refer back to what inspires you.
10. Be Bored.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to be more creative, you may need to let yourself get bored once and awhile. A recent study showed that when participants were allowed time for their minds to wander, they thought about tasks more creatively afterward. The reason? A restless mind craves stimulation, and will make up its own if it has to. Boredom induces daydreams, which in turn can spur more creative thinking. So put the phone away! Boredom may not be a pleasant state, but it’s a fertile one indeed.
11. Change the Colors of your Surroundings
The psychology of color not only relates to branding, but it also relates to our creativity levels. “Red makes us anxious, which causes you to focus and blue tells us we can relax and let the imagination roam free,”says Mark Beeman, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University. If you’re feeling less than creative, consider using color psychology to inform how you decorate your living or workspace to stimulate the parts of your brain you need to activate.
12. Think Inside the Box.
Many of us equate creativity with freedom, and believe that the more options we have, the more creative we can be. But sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. Limiting the creative options available to you can sometimes make it easier to come up with ideas. Follow prompts, limit yourself to specific tools, or join an artistic challenge that requires specific actions for a length of time. You may find that having a few boundaries will help broaden your mind.
If you want to learn more ways to kickstart your creativity, check out illustrator Jon Burgerman’s Skillshare Originals class on creative exercises to get a head start on your next project.
Cover image by Skillshare student Lena S. for Anna Sokolova’s Think in Ink: A Seven Day Analogue and Digital Inking Challenge.