Creativity isn’t just about creating art; it’s a skill that’s highly sought after and valuable in every aspect of our life and business. Creativity is about inventiveness, original ideas, innovation, and new and unique approaches. It’s about how you approach things as well as how you do things. With creativity being in such high demand, with many jobs citing “creative problem solving” as a requirement, finding different ways to increase creativity is essential.
The Benefits of Increasing Your Creativity
Creativity isn’t just about making things; it’s a skill that will help you in every aspect of your life, especially in business. Some of the benefits of increasing your creativity include the following:
- Increasing your creativity improves your problem-solving skills
- Increased creativity leads to more innovation
- Increasing creativity also increases your productivity as it allows you to work smarter, not harder
- Creativity is an in-demand skill and will give you an edge in the job market and most career paths
With all that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to increase your creativity?
Here are 15 science-backed ways to increase your creativity
1. Get enough sleep
While many people struggle to get enough sleep, the benefits of sleep are numerous, and research shows that getting enough sleep can improve your creativity.
For example, one study published in The Journal of Sleep found that people who slept more were likelier to score higher on a test of creativity than those who slept less.
Further studies have also found that there is a creative sweet spot between sleep and wakefulness. Your brain activity during this time between sleep and wakefulness (nonrapid eye movement sleep stage 1 or N1) ignites creative sparks.
Great minds like Edison, Dali, Einstein, and Aristotle all knew the magic of this sleep zone. All of them used the power of a nap to spark their creativity. They used objects that would drop as they drifted off to sleep, waking them up during this creative sweet spot.
At the physiological level, sleep allows the brain to rest and repair itself, improving cognitive function and increasing creativity.
Finally, if you need more convincing of the power of sleep for increasing creativity, some studies have found that sleep deprivation can impair creative problem-solving.
2. Take breaks
Your brain can only concentrate and focus for short periods, after which your output slows down. Taking regular breaks helps to refresh the mind and give the brain a chance to recharge.
But studies have also found that taking a break from a task, whether that’s stepping away entirely or switching to something different, can improve creativity.
In one experiment, participants were given several problems to solve and assigned one of the three approaches.
The results showed that participants who were instructed to switch back and forth between two problems at fixed intervals were significantly more likely to find the correct answer to both problems than those who switched at their discretion or halfway through the allotted time. (HBR)
In a second experiment focused on creative ideation, participants were randomly assigned to one of three task-switching approaches and asked to generate creative ideas for two idea-generation tasks.
Most people believed they would perform best if they switched between the two idea generation tasks as and when they wanted. But just like in the first study, the results found that participants who were instructed to switch back and forth between the two idea generation tasks at a fixed interval generated the most novel ideas. (HBR)
No matter what type of cognitive activity you’re engaged in, the more blood flow to your brain, the better because increased blood flow means more oxygen and more energy to the brain. Since exercise increases blood flow, getting more exercise can improve your creativity.
What’s more, exercise isn’t just great for your body. An interesting study that looked at activity levels and creativity found that people who were more physically active daily tended to be more creative than those who had more sedentary lifestyles.
That’s another good reason to hit the gym!
4. Get outside and spend time in nature.
Spending time in nature or simply being in a different environment stimulates the brain and increases creativity.
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that nature exposure was associated with increased creativity.
The study set out to:
- Explore whether different degrees of nature in urban settings influence attention recovery.
- Explore whether different degrees of nature in urban environments impact creative performance.
The results found that the amount of visual natural landscape affected people’s perception of the perceived naturalness of the environment and thus affected the individual’s creative ability and restorativeness.
Put simply, while it’s a good idea to get outside in general, it’s essential to get out to a place with more natural surroundings. The more nature, the better, so it’s well worth going beyond your patio.
Past research, which focused on the benefits of nature for creative performance or inspiration, food that as work fatigue increases, the number of creative ideas generated decreases. This suggests that therapeutic environmental characteristics are equally crucial for creative performance.
Finally, we all know how being in that dreamy haze feels. The state where your mind detaches, and for a moment, you’re in dreamland.
That’s when great ideas and inspiration strike. And nature is very effective at putting our brains in this blissful state.
Finally, research has found that being in a natural environment can reduce stress, something which is a potent creativity inhibitor.
Meditation has been shown to improve focus, concentration, attention, memory, and cognitive flexibility, all of which have a positive impact on your creativity.
What’s more, mindfulness meditation does three things that help to improve creativity ( According to the book, Mindfulness for Creativity by Danny Penman)
It turns on divergent thinking, meaning it opens your mind to different ways of thinking since it’s about exploring many possibilities rather than finding the one correct answer. It improves attention and heightens your awareness, making you more likely to notice novel or valuable ideas, and finally, it increases resilience in the face of setbacks. Since dealing with setbacks is a vital part of doing anything new and innovative, all three combined lead to enhanced creativity.
6. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being present. If you’ve ever watched an artist, musician, crafter, or baker at work, you’ll know just how present they are.
- encourage an insight rather than an analytical approach to problem-solving during convergent thinking tasks
- reduce the influence of habitual verbal-conceptual processes in thinking and habitual patterns of responding
- enhance flexibility, fluency, and originality of responses in divergent creative thinking tasks
7. Use a little constraint to stimulate creativity
You’ve probably heard the saying you can’t rush the creative process.
But while overly rigid environments will certainly stifle creativity, studies have found that setting limits or boundaries can, in fact, help to stimulate creativity by forcing the brain to come up with more creative solutions.
Engage in hobbies and interests: Pursuing hobbies and interests outside work can stimulate the brain and increase creativity. Engaging in new and novel things is not only a great way to have fun and expand your mind but can also help when you’re next trying to solve a creative problem.
The research found that hobbies not only eased mental stress and improved work-life balance but also helped scientists reach innovative solutions.
If it works for scientists, it can work for you.
8. Collaborate with others
When you collaborate with others, you share different views and expose your mind to different ways of thinking. It’s no wonder that collaborating with others can increase creativity.
A study published in the Creativity Research Journal found that collaboration was positively correlated to increased creativity.
9. Take a walk
Research has shown that walking can improve creative thinking and problem-solving. For example, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that walking increased creativity compared to sitting.
And Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. When they examined the creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat, the results showed that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.
A great reason to make your team meetings walking meetings.
10. Practice brainstorming
Brainstorming is a technique that involves generating as many ideas as possible without judgment.
This simple technique can help to stimulate creativity which is why it’s commonly used in most workplaces. A study published in the Creativity Research Journal found that brainstorming was associated with increased creativity.
11. Use association techniques
Association techniques involve making connections between seemingly unrelated ideas to generate new ideas.
One such technique is called free association. Free association is a technique often used in psychoanalysis and was first devised by Sigmund Freud. It involves letting your mind roam without censorship and naturally making random and unstructured connections.
Research has found that protocols based on free association can enhance creative thinking.
12. Ask “what if” questions.
Research has shown that asking “what if” questions can help to stimulate creativity by encouraging the brain to consider new possibilities. One study found that asking “what if” questions can stimulate critical thinking and problem-solving. In this study, participants who were asked to generate “what if” questions while reading a passage performed better on a subsequent critical thinking task compared to those who were not asked to generate “what if” questions
13. Raise your vibration AKA Get in a good mood
When it comes to creativity, researchers often talk about something called insight. This is the experience of having an AH-HA moment when you suddenly understand something. From nowhere, things click into place and suddenly make sense.
You might have been working on a puzzle for hours or trying to solve an ambiguous problem for days, then, just like that – you know the solution. You have sudden insight.
Then more of these ah-ha moments you can have, the more creative and innovative you will be.
How do you start having more of these insightful moments and being more creative?
A study conducted by Northwestern neuroscientist Mark Beeman and Drexel University cognitive psychologist John Kounios uncovered the answer.
In this study, subjects were tasked with solving remote association problems ( word puzzles aiming to find an association between seemingly unrelated words and thus find the next word in a sequence).
While some people took a logical approach to the problem, testing one theory after another, others used insight. This means the solution to the problem just popped into their minds.
During these experiments, brain function was monitored, and what Beenham and Drexel found was that when the answer came via insight, a specific part of the brain was activated just before the subjects arrived at the answer. This happened in every case.
The part of the brain that was activated was the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC, which is responsible for error correction and detecting conflicting signals to the brain.
They found that the ACC lights up when we consider ideas outside the box, random, or off the wall.
So, if activating the ACC led subjects to have insights, then activating your own ACC will do the same for you, improving your creativity.
The best way to stimulate your ACC is by being in a good mood.
Some things that can help you get in a good mood include:
- Getting enough rest
- Reading, watching, or listening to positive things
And by the way, a lousy mood causes your brain to go into analytical overdrive. When this happens, you start noticing everything that’s wrong!
Analytical thinking is the opposite of creativity.
So if you want to increase and improve your creativity, start doing things that boost your mood!
14. Engage in creative activities more often
Finally, engaging in creative activities is another way to exercise your creative muscle and improve your creativity overall, especially if you have few opportunities for creativity in your day job.
In addition to increasing creativity, there are many benefits to participating in creative activities.
The benefits of participating in creative activities include:
- Stress reduction: Engaging in creative activities can be a relaxing and therapeutic way to manage stress and reduce anxiety.
- Improved mental health: Creative activities can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression by increasing the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
- Increased self-esteem: Engaging in creative activities can boost self-esteem and self-confidence by helping individuals feel more competent and capable.
- Improved cognitive function: Creative activities can help improve memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
- Enhanced social connections: Participating in creative activities can help you build relationships with others and foster a sense of community.
- Increased sense of accomplishment: Completing a creative project can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride, which can boost self-esteem and confidence.
Overall, engaging in creative activities can provide physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits, making them an essential part of a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle.
By implementing these methods, you’ll start to notice you have increased creativity over time. And given how in-demand creativity is and how much it can benefit you, there’s no better time to start putting these things into practice than now.