Out on a run…WHAM!

In the shower…POW!

Washing the dishes…BANG!

On the toilet…BOOM!

Creativity often slaps you upside the head like a villain from a 60’s Batman television episode when you least expect it...SMACK! It was reported that Einstein would sit in the bathtub for hours until inspiration hit. Based upon my own personal experience and study of the topic, creativity happens between our thoughts. It may come when you are actively thinking, but it is usually during the pause in thought when it strikes. All of a sudden the mind finds that last puzzle piece and puts together the concept or answers the lingering question without even our full participation. It often leaves us wondering, where did that come from?

Many of today’s brightest and best executives and professionals around the world desperately want more creativity and yet struggle achieving it. This is primarily because 1) chronic stress and 2) a racing mind bombarding them with thoughts all day long, which prevents the space and pause necessary for the creativity to arrive.

This article is going to explore how to calm the mind for increased creativity and also give simple activities you can do to unleash your creative genius!

Stress Squashes Creativity

Your brain is not your mind. The brain is the hardware and the mind is more of the software. Daniel Segel M.D. gave an even better definition for the mind. ‘An embodied process that regulates the flow of energy and information’. Embodied means what happens in the mind is simultaneously experienced physically in the body.

Deepak Chopra estimates that we have 68,000 thoughts per day. Research shows that 90% of those thoughts are negative in orientation…and you had yesterday! It’s as if we each have our own Top 10 sad-sap playlist on repeat going through our head day after day. Now that’s a lot of competition for creative space in the average professional’s mind. Why does that happen?

Repetitive thoughts can be a product of the law of facilitation, a neurophysiologic principle that states when you have a thought it is like walking through a field of untouched high grass. When you have that same exact thought again you walk down the same path through the field and it strengthens the connection between the brain cells. If you continue having the same thought and walking that same path ultimately you will create a visible worn path in the grass. The very same thing happens in your brain and it becomes engrained! When this happens you will have that thought more frequently and it will stay with you longer because the brain circuitry and neural network that wires together, fires together.
One reason we have so many negative thoughts is because the brain has a negative bias for survival purposes. The mind is where stress begins and that happens when we perceive a threat. Back in the day, it was physical threats (animals and tribes) that the stress response was designed to protect us against, but today our mind and body will prepare us to fight-or-flight just the same from perceived emotional, financial, social, mental, and professional threats.

Our negative thoughts elicit matching emotions as well as a stress response that prepare our brain and body for a life-or-death situation…even if it is only bills, taxes, a first date, or public speaking we are worrying about. It’s estimated the average professional has 17 to 19 stress responses each day!

Stress activates the sympathetic branch of the nervous system that causes us to become left-brain dominant. Our left-brain hemisphere is connected to doing what we've always done, using previous knowledge, and linear/logical/mathematical thought.

It is not smart for survival to perform a cartwheel while running from danger...when you are stressed your body-mind shuts down creative and novel ideas. Stress is a major cause of your creative block.
Negative thoughts are also a product of imbalanced brain chemistry (neurotransmitters) and hormones from improper living. Beyond thinking, I guide individual and organizational clients to balance five additional factors that crush creativity due to activating the stress response and left-brain dominance:

Hydration – Dehydration, diuretics, and stimulants

Nutrition – Skipping meals, inflammatory foods & unstable blood sugar

Sleep – Lack of rest and missing optimal bedtime

Movement – Too little or too much exercise

Breathing – Holding, hyperventilation and inverted (chest/mouth)pattern

Stress not only cramps creativity, but it leads to a jumpy and racing mind. When any of the five factors above are out of balance it will create biological (instinctual) fear because the needs of human survival are not being met. Since the mind cannot be separated from the body, these imbalanced lifestyle threats to our health will cause a stressed and hyperactive mind to match the body.

Professionals that regularly ignore their body’s signals (hunger, thirst, fatigue, bathroom, love, etc.) become trapped in their head and can’t calm their mind for creativity. A calm and creative mind begins with meeting the basic human physiological needs.

Also imbalance of any of the above five factors will release a stress response that always includes a spike in blood sugar. Rapid blood sugar rising and falling leads to hyperactive cognitive behavior and decrease in serotonin levels (more negative thoughts). This means that an imbalanced lifestyle filled with stress will have you acting and thinking like a child revved up on Pixie Stix and Mountain Dew.
Mind-Calming Activities

I find that activities that calm the mind are unique to each individual and fall in either one of two categories: 1) so simple that the mind can check out like doing the elliptical machine 2) so distracting that new thoughts can’t come in like rock climbing. Remember the mind and breath mirror each other, the slower we breathe the slower our mind – this clears the runway for creativity to land. Here is a list of some activities that can calm the mind and reduce stress:

Biking, hiking, jogging, and walking
Yoga, meditation, and tai chi
Drinking herbal tea
Calling friends
Playing sports
Listening or play music
Playing with pets and children
Board games
Weight lifting
Sauna/steam room
Martial arts and boxing

Creativity-Building Activities

My clients gain the most success with stimulating their creative powers by regularly participating in activities that invite them to use their imagination, incorporate unbound play, and to create! Choose activities that allow you to fully play without a plan and can be unattached to the outcome. Many of the mind-calming activities above would/could fit in here, but the most important part of all is to find something you enjoy:

Stacking rocks
Creative writing

21-Day Creativity Invitation

I hope you can see by now that becoming your most creative self isn’t hard, torturous work at all. It can all be fun, happy-making, health-promoting, and in many instances brings out your curious, playful inner child that was always creating! It’s when we grow-up, stress-out, stop dreaming, quit playing, and ignore our body’s health needs that our creativity comes to a screeching halt.

Only you can steer your creativity, career, health, and life into the express lane and I am here to guide you with my 21-Day Creativity Invitation. I invite you to pick up to four mind-calming and/or creativity-building activities from my lists above and perform at least one activity every day for the next 21 consecutive days.

I wish you 21 days of light bulb and aha moments as you also experience a calmer mind and daily enjoyment with your own combination of activities!

Author's Bio: 

Lance Breger is an Executive Wellness Coach and the Founder of Infinity Wellness Partners, a comprehensive corporate wellness company that prepares executives and organizations for the most productive and healthy work-life. Lance has led online/on-site training programs for thousands of professionals through his company’s four pillars of wellness: fitness, nutrition, mind/body and ergonomics.

Lance is also a Master Instructor for the American Council on Exercise and the recipient of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association Program Director of the Year award. Contact Lance for coaching, consulting and speaking at: lbreger@infinitywellnesspartners.com