In a world where the average American sits for 11 hours a day our brain can get bogged down with over stimulation. Too much time in front of a computer. Too much time in front of the television. Too much time in meetings, staring across the table at coworkers. In this constant environment of distraction and stress it can be almost impossible to free our brains up to just think. Seriously, when is the last time you had an Ah-ha moment? A creative solution to a complex problem? Or simply a fresh, original idea?
When our brains are forced to be “on” all the time we miss out on the quite that allows us to do our best, most creative, original thinking.
Here are three simple ideas to spark some thought:
Take a Walk
Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Our bodies are designed for much more than simply transporting our brains from device to device, meeting to meeting and computer screen to computer screen. Simply taking a walk can help us detach from a problem we’re too close to or give us the distraction we need to help us solve a problem we’ve been unable to solve. We’ve all had it happen- you’re so focused on finding a solution and the more you focus and the harder you work at it, the further away a solution seems. As soon as we start thinking about something completely different, boom! The answer pops into our heads.
Walking also helps our problem solving ability by increasing our blood circulation. Our brains are fueled by glucose and oxygen and the more we move, the more fuel we get to the brain. Think about a light bulb attached to a bicycle- in order to turn on the light bulb, you’ve got to start peddling.
Try this- once an hour, take a five minute break from your computer and take a short walk, outside if possible but just around your office or home will do. Leave your smart phone or iPad behind and just let your mind wonder. Give your mind the freedom it needs to do its best work.
Take a Shower
Seriously, how many times do you have an Ah-ha moment in the shower?! It happens to me so often than I stash waterproof markers in the shower so I can make notes and jot down ideas. Some of my clearest, most creative thinking happens as I’m scrubbing suds. Like walking, taking a shower increases our circulation, combined with the noise and the forced disconnect from our mobile devices and you’ve got a recipe for some of your most high-level problem solving.
Try this- tomorrow morning when while you’re washing your hair, take note of the ideas flowing through your head. Grab a dry erase marker and make a few notes.
New research about the benefits of exercise on the brain seem to be coming out on almost a daily basis. Exercise’s benefits on our health has been known for decades but we’re now discovering just how beneficial, even vital it is for proper brain function, learning and development and even problem solving. When we engage in vigorous (think 70% of your max HR, or just go for challenging) exercise we release hormones that literally increase our ability to learn new things. Add that to the fact that exercise releases dopamine and epinephrine (feel good hormones) and you’ve got a recipe for brilliance… seriously!
Try this- When you’re stuck on a problem, or you’ve got a big project you’re working on, instead of banging your head against your computer hoping the answers will just come to you- grab your running shoes and hit the pavement for 20 minutes. Don’t like running? No worries, anything that gets your heart rate up works just the same. You’ll be shocked at how clear your thought process and creative your solutions.
Since you’ll be so inundated with all these new ideas, make sure to have a notebook and pen handy, some shower-markers or an app that allows you to make simple notes.