Those of us in a creative profession don’t have the luxury of waiting around for the muse to visit. Creativity is our lifeblood and needs to be respected as any other resource. Whether you need creativity for your work, life, or both, try some of these ways to help keep your mojo flowing.
1. Look at something blue or green
Research is showing what some of us may intuitively feel, that the colors of our surroundings have an effect on our creativity. Specifically, the colors blue and green.
Two separate studies have demonstrated that exposure to these colors prior to a creative task improved the participants’ creative performance. The researchers’ theory is that blue and green both have subconscious links in our minds that affect our thought processes.
They suggest our minds relate blue to the openness and freedom we perceive in the sky and oceans, and green is associated with growth and life as seen in nature and plants. Our state of mind can also become more open and allow for growth, which leads to greater creativity.
Interestingly, both studies showed that gender made no difference on the results.
It’s easy to expose yourself to blue and green as you go through your day. You can include blue and green elements in your workspace, such as a feature wall or a picture that contains blue and green.
You can also work near a window so you can see the sky and landscape outside. Or better yet, get out and take a walk when possible.
2. Gesture with your hands
A Stanford University study was done to demonstrate the theory that creative thinking is a fluid process, whereas analytical thought is considered more rigid. They found that fluid arm movement enhanced creativity in three areas: creative generation, cognitive flexibility and the ability to find an association between different items.
They concluded that bodily movement can have an influence on cognitive processing, with fluid movement leading to fluid thinking and increased creativity.
Take advantage of this capability by talking with your hands, or any other form of fluid, expressive movement, such as dancing, stretching or yoga. The same goes for doodling, painting or other activities that use hand and arm movements.
3. Live in a different country
Many of us have experienced eye-opening moments during travel to new countries or locations. Research suggests that living in and adapting to foreign cultures also promotes creativity.
One study found that multicultural learning promotes people’s idea flexibility, increases awareness of underlying connections and helps overcome fixed ideas and concepts.
It has also been shown that people who previously lived in a foreign culture for a time are not only more creative, but also more successful. People appeared to gain a greater capacity to see multiple perspectives by experiencing a culture other than their own.
These benefits were only found in those who had previously lived in another country. Short term vacations did not produce the same results.
If you’ve been considering a student exchange or working in a different country, this is another great reason to put your plans into action. Your trip may have more significance to your life than it seems on the surface.
4. Work when you’re tired
This may go against popular advice, but it’s been shown that people have greater creative problem solving ability during non-optimal times of day compared to optimal times of day.
One study determined this was true for both morning and night people. Each group performed better on creative tasks at their non-preferred time of day, either morning or evening. Although, the time of day seemed to have no effect on analytic problem solving.
Try mixing up your schedule and see where it takes you. If you’re a morning person, break out your creative project after dinner. And for night owls, set your alarm and see what you can achieve at the crack of dawn.
5. Embrace rejection
Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? It turns out this can actually be a fuel for creativity.
A 2012 study showed that certain individuals performed more creatively following social rejection compared to inclusion. A key finding was that these people also had a strong independent self-concept. They valued individuality and did not place much importance on being part of a group.
By definition, creative ideas tend to be unusual, infrequent and potentially controversial. The researchers suggest that a person who values nonconformity and wishes to assert their individuality is more likely to develop creative concepts.
The stereotypical image of a tortured artist living on the fringe of society may have some truth to its creative outcomes, but this clearly is not a recommended way to live your life.
The message here is to embrace whatever feelings you may have about your relation to others and your place in the world. We’re all individuals and it’s important to choose your own path in life, no matter what some may say.
Artists’ retreats, taking the uninterrupted time you need to complete a creative project, or even silent meditation can all help provide personal space and allow your creativity to flourish.