Authors of The Creative Thinking Handbook, Melina Costi and Chris Griffiths, explain how ‘zoning out’ benefits your creativity and wellbeing
The world around us moves at an ever-increasing pace; just keeping up can seem like a constant pressure. Simultaneously balancing work, your health, your family and your social life can be hard work. Rest is something we often take for granted, despite its fundamental role in keeping us healthy, energised and productive.
When you’ve got overflowing to-do lists and numerous work and family commitments, taking a break can seem counterproductive. However, by helping you avoid burnout, resting your brain is essential to staying mentally and emotionally healthy. Giving your brain a break can even help you to think more creatively.
When we’re faced with a difficult task, or a seemingly unsolvable problem, it’s tempting to force yourself to concentrate on the issue until it is resolved – but, this can be damaging to our ability to problem-solve and is actually very restrictive when it comes to creative thinking.
Most think of daydreaming as something done during lazy moments, instead of work. However, daydreaming is actually one of the most valuable creativity-boosting tools you can use – and it’s free! It is for this reason that our best ideas often come to us when we’re taking a shower or walking the dog – and rarely when we’re forcefully staring at a screen. Inspiration is fostered when we switch our minds off and aren’t actually ‘working’.
It must be noted that, like any other creativity tool, daydreaming must be focused and goal-oriented. Aimlessly staring out the window won’t do it! The key to focused daydreaming consists of sufficient preparation and an awareness of what you’d like to achieve. So, when you’re faced with a problem that needs a creative solution, take the following two steps:
Step one – do your homework
Try exploring all the possible solutions to your problem using active or ‘conscious’ creativity techniques. This may include ‘reverse brainstorming’, where you state the reverse of your problem (eg. ‘How can I improve performance?’ becomes ‘How can I worsen performance?’) Next, brainstorm possible solutions and then flip these solutions to find answers to your original problem.
This approach will encourage you to think more deeply about the challenge so that your unconscious mind has lots to think about.
Step two – time to switch off
Step away from the pressure of the problem by taking a break for 30 to 60 minutes; find a change of scenery and do something enjoyable and relaxing. By giving your ideas time to ‘incubate’ in your subconscious mind, you’ll allow your creative brain to wander productively, play with concepts and generate new insights.
Rest comes in many forms – knowing that taking a break from a problem doesn’t have to mean slumping on the sofa will greatly improve the solutions you uncover. Instead, try giving your brain a break to not only improve your wellbeing, but also to enhance your thinking skills. By treating rest as a necessity, rather than a reward or luxury, you can improve your health as well as your performance at work.