Simple Morning Exercises to Boost Your Creativity
Over the years, through the media and our social circles, we have become more informed about the health benefits of regular exercise. We have a saying in Turkish, “iron that is being used, shines.” And this couldn’t be truer. But what about the mind? How do we work our brains in more effective ways? I’ve been working in the field of innovation and creativity for over 15 years now, and too often I see people who are great at getting work done but who struggle with innovative thinking. As someone who strongly believes in the benefits of regular exercise, I decided to look at ways to overcome the creative road blocks in our lives and work out our minds the same way we do our bodies. In our Green Room sessions, I watch first-hand how a mental workout can help us tap into our creativity, allowing us to seize opportunities, solve problems and maximize productivity. Here are a couple of quick and easy ways to boost our creative minds each morning. These habits can get the creative juices flowing, and, good news is, you can easily do them while getting ready for work, having your breakfast or during your commute.
- Look at your calendar and set an intention for your day
We hold the key to our day. How we feel and what we want to achieve determines every moment. Since I’m very curious about different spiritual practices, one of the things that got my attention was that, for so many centuries various religious and yoga practices have tried to encourage people to make a conscious effort to be in control of their day. That’s why, at the beginning of a yoga class, the instructor will ask everyone to set an intention for their practice. The same thing goes for praying, it is encouraged to set an intention first, then to pray. Spending so many years in the field of creativity and innovation, I realized that this habit can help boost our creative thinking. In a world where social media is a huge part of our lives, our brains are overstimulated all day long. We need to focus, tune out all the other noise, and make space for creative thoughts to emerge. One simple way to do this is by simply looking at our calendars for the day and setting an intention for what we would like to achieve with our relationships, family, work, personal development, the list could go on. We decide what is important to us and determine what outcome we would like to achieve. Visual aids help, too. Try to write these intentions down in your phone and revisit them at the end of the day. Then relax, rest and repeat each morning.
- Use your shower time wisely
Where do you come up with your best ideas? When we ask this during our The Green Room Collective sessions, for some reason, people always say, “In the shower!” That’s because it’s the perfect time for your mind to relax and open the door to your right brain; getting into the alpha state where your most creative concepts lie. Try to tap into those creative ideas by injecting stimuli into your shower routine. Put on some music, light a nice candle with your favorite fragrance, and let your mind start racking up creative definitions, ideas and projects galore.
- Slip into la la land and daydream
A lot of creative people, including Woody Allen and J.K. Rowling, credit daydreaming for setting the stage and inspiration for their best ideas. This is because, when you daydream, your brain’s problem-solving network is more active than when you are focused on routine tasks. So, instead of focusing on your To Do list for the day, start imagining your day and let your brain daydream. J.K Rowling says a boring train ride turned into one of the most inspirational, productive times of her career as a writer. For us, our daily commute could be a great time to do this creative exercise.
- Get the most out of auto-pilot mode
“Auto-pilot” is a good description for the state our brain is in between the time we wake up and the time we arrive at work. I barely remember that time that I spend in the mornings getting ready or driving to work. It always feels like, somehow, I’ve been teleported to work from my bed. This is like the “witching hour” for creative ideas. The brain is rested (somewhat, depending on your sleep habits), and the subconscious is fresh as it emerges from sleep mode. That is one of the reasons why people prefer to mediate first thing in the morning. So, how do we capitalize on this precious time? When we get out of our routine and change things up a bit, it forces our brains to focus and make new connections, which ultimately stimulate the brain. There are simple ways to do this, like taking a different route to work, using public transportation instead, assembling different outfits than our usual attire, trying varying breakfast foods, or even driving our significant other’s or roommate’s car instead of our own. The trick is to change things up to shift our perspective. This will help us inject more innovation into business plans and potentially prepare us for creative ways to approach new or existing projects.
- Look around and never assume
When we are in line for coffee, on the subway or waiting for the elevator, we tend to spend that time scrolling through our phones. One of the big takeaways from the work that I do, is that people are a wheel of inspiration, and coffee places are full of them! There are a couple of ways to draw inspiration from others. If you are an introvert, like me, and it takes time to open up, that’s fine. Even observing people, watching how people move, even the unique way they take their coffee, could provide a lot of inspiration. A very progressive R&D person once told me that he gets brilliant ideas just by going to coffee shops to observe people ordering and preparing coffee. He says that to get from people-watching mode to inspiration mode, he tries to focus on what they are doing and relentlessly asks himself, “Why are they doing that?” That curiosity, and the “Why, why, why?” leads him to insights he has never considered before. He says, “The key is to never assume.” Pretend as if you came to Earth from another planet and are trying to figure out the human way. If you assume that you know what is going on, you will fall into the trap of old assumptions, learn nothing new, and fail to make new connections.
If you are the social type, and like to chat with others, then this is a great way to get inspiration, as well. One tip is to lead with open-ended questions, since “big talk” reveals more interesting facts about people than small talk. I was once in line for tea at a café and this woman in front of me struck up a conversation. Being an introvert, I was trying to keep it polite and short, but then she started to talk about how another café-restaurant she had been to reinvented the ordering system. This conversation ended up being a big source of inspiration for a business consulting Green Room session we were planning at the time.
So, there you have it. I’ve shared with you a couple of easy things you can do to work out your mind, boost your creativity, and start your day off right. As it is with everything, all it takes is the motivation to give it a try one morning and see how it works for you. Of course, there are so many other ways to apply creative thinking tools to your day and to your work projects. If you are looking for more tools, techniques and examples, let’s connect, and I’d be happy to share them with you.