Tell me if this has ever happened to you – you’ve been working on a project that is stressing you out. You’ve been going for hours, and making incremental progress, but you keep getting distracted. Sighing, wishing you could just be done, feeling discouraged by how you just can’t seem to make something click.
Then, you finally take a break. You go outside on a walk. You sit down to have a meal with some friends. You take your dog to the park. Suddenly, an idea bubbles up and you find a solution to the project you’ve been working on. You go back the next day, reenergized and ready to tackle it. Everything clicks and you have a new perspective making it easier to accomplish.
Being creative is exhausting. No one can be creative all the time. That’s why balance is key to any creative mind. You need time away from your computer. You need time to do things that make your brain release serotonin, dopamine, and can boost endorphins – the “happy hormones.” (Check out How to Hack Your Hormones for a Better Mood)
Breaks are not only enjoyable, breaks are necessary.
While I’d love to say that I’m always able to go outside and take a longer break when I’m stuck in a tricky work project, that’s just not practical. Luckily for me, I’ve stumbled across meditation.
Meditation has been a struggle for me for years (I’m usually the fidgety one in yoga class when it comes time to try Shavasana).
That being said, I’m learning to love it. It’s a way to find peace in your own mind, exploring the reality of the here and now, no matter where you are. It’s a way to pull yourself out of negative or repetitive thought patterns and give your brain a refresh.
One meditation technique I’ve learned while using the Waking Up app by Sam Harris is to visualize my thoughts as cars passing by on a highway I’m watching. To see them, acknowledge them, and to let them go. I’ve found it extremely helpful when I find myself angry, frustrated, or feeling like I’ve been treated unfairly.
I take a breath, close my eyes, and acknowledge that these feelings are fleeting. They are not the state I will remain in. I can see them and experience them for a moment, but in a few minutes they’ll be gone. It’s a nice way to take a mental beat even if I can’t go outside or take a longer break.
I then focus on how my breath feels in my throat, lungs, and stomach. I listen for the sounds I hear in the office, realizing I can’t control what I hear or what will happen next. It gives me a sense of openness and lets me release the idea that I need to try and take control of everything. It reminds me to go with the flow.
After a few minutes of meditation, I’m ready to re-focus on the task at hand and I generally find that I’m in a much more positive headspace while doing so!
Another practice I have started is a gratitude activity. Each day I write down 1-3 things that I am grateful for, and 1-3 things that made me happy that day on a mirror hanging by my front door.
Meditation and the gratitude practice combined help train your brain to look for positivity and can help keep you relaxed, allowing you to produce more of those “happy hormones” which leads to added creativity.
Don’t just take it from me. This fantastic article from the Harvard Business Review delves into how just 10-12 minutes of meditation can boost creativity: Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative? They conducted a study that found that groups who meditated before being assigned a task had a wider variety of ideas than groups who didn’t.
So, the next time you’re feeling a bit stressed, anxious, or frustrated by a task and need to take a break, try a guided meditation. There are a ton of free guided meditations via YouTube or various apps like the Waking Up app I mentioned above that can help you find your own inner peace, boosting creativity.
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