Ways To Boost Creativity & Problem Solving Skills
You’ve got a problem. You’re stuck. Your brain is in a rut and you’re just not thinking clearly. Or worse, you’re obsessing, panicking and full of anxiety about what you’re going to do. The thing is, stress lowers your ability to think clearly or creatively. So let’s change your train of thought. Here are some free and easy ways to boost your creativity and blast through problems so you can advance your career or grow your business.
Some of the following ways to boost creativity may seem too unconventional to use in your office, but who wants to be conventional anyway? You’re innovative! You are creative. So go ahead and tell your team that these practices classify as productive uses of time and that you’re employing proven problem solving techniques. Use these methods for yourself and share with your team for a maximum creativity boost.
Tips To Boost Creativity
Change your language. We cower from problems. We react with stress and fear. A problem can quickly trigger less than helpful learned behaviours. And we all have bad learned behaviours. Change the conversation to change your thinking in an instant. It’s easy – just change the word “problem” to “challenge”. You accept a challenge. You rise to meet a challenge. You put your thinking cap on and tackle it. No problem here. Challenge accepted!
Listen to music. Get lost in a favorite song. Sing out loud. Music and singing have been shown to lower anxiety, which can help you think more clearly.
Dance. For a few minutes- go all out. Eyes closed, deep in your groove, dance like no one is watching – it’s like a reboot for your brain.
Be still. Meditate. A different way to reboot your brain and refresh your creativity. Even just 10 minutes a day, or when facing a challenge, can help you think your way over, under or through your obstacle.
Collaborate. Or ask for someone else’s opinion. When we’re stuck, we tend to be full of fear, so taking a risk by asking for help isn’t an obvious choice for many of us. Successful people know that asking for help and receiving feedback and mentoring are critical to raising their own game. So ask for someone’s opinion on your challenge, and see if it doesn’t create new areas for you to explore.
Put pen to paper. Skip the computer screen or tablet and get ancient. Writing by hand to increase creativity has been well documented. Keep a notebook handy at all times, so you can make notes when inspiration strikes, and also write out ideas and strategies to overcome challenges.
Chunk it down. Things and challenges are a sum of their parts and you can break them down to increase creative thinking. Try this exercise. Pick any object and mentally break it down into parts. So, your desk becomes a flat surface, a drawer, rollers, a handle, 4 legs, or your potted plant becomes petals, leaves, stems, dirt, a container. This is known as the “generic-parts technique” and people trained to think this way are better at solving problems through creative insight. Apply the technique to your challenges and see where it takes you.
Exercise your eyes. If you’re at a screen, you should exercise your eyes every 20-30 minutes anyhow, to reduce eye strain. It’s an added bonus that eye exercises can also boost left and right brain syncing, which may boost creative thinking. Slowly move your eyes side to side, or follow your finger from side to side, up, down and in zigzags. Repeat for 2-3 minutes. Another eye exercise is based on distance. Focus on an object about 20 feet away, for 20 seconds, then switch to an object about 2 feet away. Alternate for a few minutes. Wrap up by closing your eyes for a full minute or more, shutting down all visual perception and letting those peepers rest.
Boost your brain. Want to boost activity in your prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex to help decision making? Laugh! This is a great excuse to take a walk to the desk of a friend, share some jokes or watch a silly Youtube video together and just laugh! Help improve your office culture by sharing these ideas on boosting productivity, or lead your small business team by setting the example yourself.
Take a forest bath. Forest bathing is a term used for walking outside in nature, but a nearby park with grass and trees can do the trick. Being in nature is shown to calm nerves, energize your body and stimulate your mind and imagination. So, whether it’s before the work day, on your lunch break, or when you’re preparing to tackle a challenge, go walk in nature to think better.
Habits Of Creative People
The above tips and practices can help you out when you are facing an immediate challenge, or a stubborn one. Overall, there are lifestyle choices and habits for creativity, and you will notice they generally align with habits that create overall good health. Here are some habits purported to increase creativity.
Sleep. Are you getting enough? Lack of sleep lowers all your cognitive functions in as little as two nights of insufficient rest. Also, sleep itself helps you to think about experiences in new and novel ways.
Exercise. Some studies have shown regular exercisers to perform better on creative tasks than less active peers. Exercise also lowers instances of depression, which kills creativity. Exercise changes your brain chemistry and can have a positive impact on cognitive functions.
Friendships & socializing. Spending time with people we like, love and trust helps us to feel secure and happy in general, which also lowers depression. Socializing allows for deeper conversations, open exchange and broadening of thought. Strong friendships can offer support and courage to present new ideas or go after big goals. Isolation has the opposite effect. Give yourself the gift of socializing by saying yes to more invitations, or inviting others.
Alone time. Balance friendship and socializing with alone time. Get in touch with your own thoughts, process your own feelings, and indulge in hobbies that interest you and you alone. Alone time is healthy, and we all need varying degrees of social and alone time. Give yourself permission to find your own balance by saying no to some invitations.
Adventure. Adventure can be had in the everyday life. No need to travel halfway around the world to find it. Take a new route to the office. Try a new coffee shop on the other side of town. Following your routine or doing things by rote or habit undermines creative thought. Adventure and novelty seeking behaviour correlates with creativity.
30 day challenges. 30 day challenges are an excellent way to disrupt routine and stimulate new experiences, reactions, thoughts and ideas, all of which are conducive to creative thought.
Start where you are. Impossible expectations put us under pressure. And we are usually our own worst enemy – the only person expecting the impossible from us. This kind of pressure kills creativity and momentum. Instead, start where you are. Maybe you have never blogged before, and long to start to help boost your consulting business, but feel inadequate, and are certain no one would read what you put out because you’ve never written before. Don’t expect perfection. Perfection kills the good enough. Instead, take some pointers from online resources, give it your best effort, and then ask for feedback and help from a friend. Before you know it, you will produce your first piece and make it easier for yourself to move forward with the next. If blogging isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Whatever your challenge is, just start where you are. And try new things regularly. You will fail at some, but others will lead you down previously unimagined paths of success.