North Texas Daily

Pulling away from media strengthens your creativity

Pulling away from media strengthens your creativity

Pulling away from media strengthens your creativity
October 22
13:00 2022

Showering is one of the only daily activities where I find myself uninhibited by any external media. It is where I have some of my best thoughts.

I scroll on my phone in the morning, listen to music while walking to class, study and research assignments, watch sports and read before bed. Not to mention, I usually watch YouTube videos while I eat meals. With this bombardment of media, when will I have time for those spontaneous, innovative thoughts I’m searching for?

Shower thoughts are a well-known expression, with an entire subreddit dedicated to short quips meant to come in the shower.

“Flying is the same as swimming, just in a lot less viscous fluid,” reads a post in the thread.

The shower spawned some of my most memorable, often pointless, invention ideas. The practical utility of these ideas is questionable but are certainly creative and emerged from unconscious shower thoughts.

Creative breakthroughs commonly result from a process called incubation, according to an exploration of creativity for Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Incubation refers to a period where one refrains from engaging in conscious thought about a subject, simply letting ideas meld in your mind. Many creative people report this process helping them produce some of their best ideas.

A Consciousness and Cognition study tested this incubation idea by asking participants to create a list of items in a category, such as “things one can do with a brick.” Unsurprisingly, those given time for thought before making their list performed better than those asked to form a list right away.

More revealing was those who were asked to spend their buffer time thinking about the task at hand produced answers that coincided with conventional answers. Those who were told to spend their buffer time letting their minds wander away from the topic — in an incubation state — gave answers that were more creative, unique and unusual.

The results show minds that wander can produce unconventional ideas and solutions. Creative ideas are like soup — you have to give them time to simmer, letting the flavors and ideas meld together.

A famous story says Archimedes lowered himself into a bathtub then noticed the rise in water level could help measure the volume and shouted “Eureka!” The facts of this story are debatable, but they illustrate one extreme to how far shower or bath thoughts can take humanity.

Some might argue our phones are creativity’s greatest asset but technology helps cultivate creativity into successful initiatives. For example, researching and writing this article would be tedious without Google. New research finds that phone addiction can actually weaken areas of our brain that help with creative cognition.

The prefrontal cortex, a key role in creativity, was measured to be less active in people with “smartphone addiction tendency” than those with “healthy control.” This was seen when performing creative tasks, according to Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Relying on our phones is not a bad thing, but it can prevent our minds from finding answers to problems we didn’t even know we had. When you allow your mind to wander, you may think of out-of-the-box ideas unrelated to anything going on in your life. But sometimes, they can come in handy and can save you from a mental block.

How can we improve our creative mind wandering? Mindfulness meditation aids creative processes, particularly with the incubation phase, according to a study from Creativity Research Journal. The practice is described as “detached, non-judgmental witnessing of thoughts, feelings, and sensations over the entire phenomenal field.”

Many of us may feel we’ve had our own eureka moments. But, with all these shower ideas, it is inconvenient this is the one place we can’t write anything down. Perhaps someone will let their mind wander and find a solution to that.

Maybe the key is to find more “shower-like” moments in our days. You don’t have to be underwater to have good ideas – you just have to let your mind wander.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

About Author

Jack Moraglia

Jack Moraglia

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