Want to be more creative? Then writing on warm coloured paper, hitting the gym and a view of nature may be your answer. These are just a few of the suggestions made by Dr Amantha Imber in her book “The Creativity Formula”.
With a solid understanding of the latest empirical research, Dr Imber provides a range of practical and simple solutions to get your creative juices flowing.
Whilst this book is written for a corporate/professional audience, I still found the advice relevant for high school and university students. In a nutshell, the strategies that appear to make us think more creatively also help us to work more effectively, be less stressed and have more fun!
Below are five ways to boost your creativity that are mentioned in Dr Imber’s book. I felt that these strategies were the most relevant to students.
1. Surround yourself with warm colours
Have you ever noticed that a lot of fast food chain logos and stores such as Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King), KFC, Red Rooster and McDonalds are all similar colours – either red, orange and yellow or a combination of these colours? This didn’t just happen by coincidence. There is psychological research behind it!
Research tells us that warm colours (e.g. red, yellow and orange) not only tend to stimulate our appetite but they make us feel happier too.
So what does this have to with creativity? Well, studies also tell us that when we feel happier we tend to have more creative ideas.
Dr Imber encourages readers to decorate their offices with warmly coloured posters and items. She also suggest we use yellow writing paper pads to scribble down ideas. With this in mind, I stuck up a poster of Saraswati (Hindu Goddess of knowledge and arts) that I picked up for $2 and covered my laptop stand with a bright scarf.
2. Have a view of nature or get an indoor plant
What would you prefer to look at – a brick wall or some trees? It may seem like a no brainer, but scientists have actually tested the effects of looking at these different sceneries. What they found is that people who were exposed to nature tended to have improved self esteem, better moods and experienced less stressed than others.
How does this relate to creativity? The obvious reason is that nature provides us with stress relief which allows us to think more clearly, be more focused and creative.
3. Create an original, quirky workspace
I’ve worked at a number of organisations where minimalist offices seemed to be all the rage. Quite frankly, they were boring and uninspiring places to work.
“One of the best ways to provoke creative thought is to surround the brain with lots of diverse stimuli. This increases the number of connections sparked in the brain, and therefore the number of new ideas popping up. An office that has the bare minimum of furniture and accessories will not provide much stimulus to drive creative thought”
So don’t hold back. Dr Imber tells us to surround ourselves with artwork, posters, and Elvis figurines! She even goes as far as telling us to create a toy box for our office. Whilst I’m not a fan of clutter, I can certainly appreciate that a personalised, fun office would help one to think in new and different ways.
4. Move it
People who engage in just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise experience enhanced creativity and mental alertness. So before you start a mentally taxing task, go for a run or do a zumba or spin class. It doesn’t matter what you do, just as long as you work up a sweat.
I’ve started going to the gym first thing in the morning (6am) and noticed that it makes a huge difference not only to my energy levels but also in terms of my ability to focus and concentrate throughout the day.
5. Carry a notepad and pen with you at all times
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea or the answer to a problem? Dr Imber states that we tend to have our most creative thoughts in the following places and situations – in bed, in the bath, on the toilet, on public transport and driving the car.
Unfortunately, when you wake up at 2am with a great idea in a semi sleep deprived state and there is no pen and paper in sight, it’s highly likely that you’re not going to write it down and the idea will be gone come the morning.
What often differentiates “creative” people from others is that they tend to capture a lot of their ideas whilst others simply forget them. Last year my friend and fellow PhD student, Dean Lasslet, gave me the idea to carry a pen and paper with me at all times to capture my ideas. This was a brilliant idea and I made significant progress with formulating my PhD project by doing this.
If a notebook and pen doesn’t work for you perhaps you may want to invest in a dictaphone/tape recorder. If you capture hundreds of brilliant ideas that would otherwise be forgotten, I’d say it’s money well spent.
Blanchette, D.M., Ramocki, S.P., O’Del, J.N., & Casey, M.S. (2005). Aerobic exercise and creative potential: Immediate and residual effects. Creativity Research Journal, 17, 257-264.
Imber, A. (2009). The Creativity Formula. Liminal Press: Victoria, Australia.
McCoy, J.M., & Evans, G.W. (2002). The potential role of the physical environment in fostering creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 14, 409-426.