Relax Your Way to Creativity

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Image of glass of water being poured with Maya Angelou quote overtop: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Taking time for yourself can have myriad benefits.

When we rest, we open up our minds to opportunities to be creative and productive.

Although it might look like we are doing one thing, our minds remain hard at work⁠. We are puzzling over problems, thinking creatively, and free-associating.

“The critical thing to recognize is that when we are mind-wandering, when our minds don’t have any particular thing they have to focus on, our brains are pretty darn active,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, tells Scientific American. “When you do things like go for a long walk, your subconscious mind keeps working on problems.”

Pang, who is also founder of the Restful Company, a consulting company in SIlicon Valley, differentiates between resting and engaging in restorative activity.

Mindlessly binge-watching television may help us wind down, but that’s passive. Active hobbies that help your mind wander are important. That’s why walking can be such great exercise, for both the mind and the body.

Another way to think of this is in terms of helpful distractions.

As Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson explains in The Boston Globe, “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.’’

When we focus on a problem, we can have trouble finding the solution. This is because we aren’t opening ourselves up to different solutions.

Carson, also the author of Your Creative Brain, argues everyone can benefit from flexing their creativity muscles. It can make us feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and effective. Creativity inspires us.

But taking time for active rest or creating opportunities for helpful distraction can be tough.

This is especially true when, as Geoffrey James points out on Inc.com, we live in a society where people where their stress as a badge of honor.

His advice?

“Be brave enough to give your brain the leisure it needs to carry your ideas, your career or your company to the next level.”

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