You can’t force creativity when you aren’t feeling it. But these psychological tactics can help inspire you when you need it most.
Sometimes it seems that certain people are simply gifted with the knack for creativity. If you feel like you were not one of those lucky few who draws from a seemingly endless creative wellspring, this does not mean that you are doomed to a life of the mundane and expected. Much like a muscle, creativity is something that you can cultivate and develop with a little practice and hard work.
One important thing to remember is that creativity is not a passive process. Simply sitting back and waiting for inspiration to find you is a recipe for losing your motivation and becoming discouraged. Instead, focus on looking for ways to boost your own creativity. Seek out the things that inspire you and that help you focus your attention and mental energy on the task at hand.
Check out some of these fascinating and often unusual tricks that might help spark your creativity.
Go for a Walk
One 2014 study found that people tend to be more creative when they are walking rather than when they are sitting down. Previous research has shown that regular physical activity can play an important role in boosting and protecting cognitive abilities, but this study found that a simple walk could temporarily improve certain types of thinking.
So if you are tied to a desk and struggling to come up with a good idea, try going for a quick walk to see if inspiration might strike.
Research has found that rewarding things that are already intrinsically rewarding can backfire and actually reduce motivation, a phenomenon known as the overjustification effect. So it might seem like offering some sort of reward for creative thinking might have the opposite effect, stifling creativity and motivation.
Yet one study found that when children were offered an explicit reward for producing creative drawings, the creativity of their work actually increased.
So if you are trying to find inspiration, try promising yourself some type of desirable treat as a reward for coming up with a creative solution. Just don’t overdo it, or you risk decreasing your motivation.
Create Some Psychological Distance
People often suggest taking a break from a task when you’ve hit a creative block. One experiment found that placing some psychological distance between yourself and the problem might also do the trick. Researchers found that when participants imagined that a problem originated from a far location versus a close one, they solved more problems and came up with more creative solutions.
The next time you face a difficult problem, try imagining that the issue is distant and disconnected from your current location.
Surround Yourself With Inspiration
Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that surroundings also play a role in the creative process. Stimulating environments can facilitate the creative thought process, so surrounding yourself with things that you find inspiring and motivating can help.
Create an office space that helps you feel inspired and energized. Seek out stimulating experiences and settings that can help trigger inventiveness.
When you are trying to solve a problem, people often rely on the obvious, building on existing ideas in order to come up with the easiest solution. This often leads to a good outcome, but it can also lead to mental sets and functional fixedness that makes it challenging to think of creative solutions. One way to overcome this is to place some restrictions or resistance on your thinking can actually lead to more creative solutions.
The next time you are trying to solve a problem, try limiting the things you can use to come up with a solution. You might find yourself coming up with new and innovative ideas that you might not have considered otherwise.
In today’s high-tech, connected world, distraction is just a click away. Instead of filling every single idle moment with apps, games, email, website visits, try letting yourself actually be bored for a spell. In one study, bored participants performed better on creativity tests than those who were elated, relaxed or distressed. In another study, researchers found that boredom gives people time to daydream, which then leads to greater creativity.
Boredom encourages creative thinking because it sends a signal that the current situation or environment is lacking, and looking for new ideas and inspiration helps overcome that.
Re-Conceptualize the Problem
One common trait that creative people tend to share is that they typically re-conceptualize problems more often than less creative people do. Instead of continuing to throw yourself at the same mental wall, try taking a step back. Revisit the problem from the very beginning. Is there a different way to think about the problem? Can you look at the issue from a different angle?
Giving yourself this chance to start over with a fresh point of view can foster creative thinking and lead to more novel solutions.
Researchers have long thought that positive emotions were strongly linked to creativity, but one 2007 study found that both strong positive and negative emotional states were linked to creative thinking. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and put yourself in a bad mood just to gain some inspiration. But the next time you do find yourself in a negative emotional state, try applying some of that energy towards solving a problem or accomplishing a task rather than just sitting around fuming.
Negative emotions can be unpleasant, but you can make the most of them by working on something productive when you are in a bad mood.
Surround Yourself With Blue
Color psychology suggests that different colors can have varying effects on moods, emotions, and behaviors. According to a 2009 study, the color blue tends to make people think more creatively. Why? According to the researchers, the color blue helps encourage people to think outside the box. Since blue is heavily associated with nature, peace, and tranquility, the color tends to help people feel safe to explore and be creative.
So the next time you are trying to find inspiration, try using the color blue to see if it might trigger some new ideas.
Research has also shown that certain types of meditation are linked to an increase in creative thinking. Meditation has long been used as a relaxation technique, but recent research has demonstrated that the health benefits extend far beyond relaxation. One study found that using something known as open monitoring meditation in which the individual is receptive to any and all thoughts and sensations without focusing on any particular object or idea, can increase divergent thinking and the generation of new ideas.
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