Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Your mind produces thoughts like your heart produces beats

Pretty powerful, isn’t it? If we want to get technical, the heart “beats” the brain by a few thousand beats, but given that we likely produce 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, it seems pretty clear that we humans think a lot.

Among this great number of thoughts, I’m curious to know:

  • How many of them could potentially be life-changing ideas?
  • How many do simply get lost in the ether? Why does that happen?
  • How can we consciously bring more of them to life so we can be more innovative and creative?

I know that being a full-time designer and part-time writer myself, creativity is something I can’t quite have enough of. That’s the main reason why I’m finding myself to be on a quest to answer questions like that, and why I’m approaching creativity as a skill we can all learn

While I think I’m far from having any of the answers nailed down, a few months ago I realised that some of the answers on “how to be more creative” have been right under my nose for a long time, and they turned out to be simple habits I could implement in my day-to-day life.

Building a creative thinking habit is a fairly simple process, but it’s neither easy nor linear. For instance, in the last few months, I slowly built some daily habits and completely screwed up and fell out of them, so that I could restart doing them. Because at the end of the day, we all fuck up at times. 

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes, art is knowing which ones to keep

Scott Adams

Here the 5 activities that I personally experimented with in the course of the last year that allowed me to get more of my creative thinking flowing. Because consistency is essential in this, I’m going to point the easiest way to get started too. I got your back.


1) Sit down and think

Photo by Mitchell Griest on Unsplash

I know, I know…you’ve read about meditation in every other blog post in the past few years, but here’s one thing in my defence: meditation is awesome! Whether it’s done by being focused (concentrative) or open monitoring (mindfulness) the benefits of meditation are astounding. Research shows meditation can be used to reduce stress and control anxiety, enhance emotional health and, of course, increase creativity.

I found real help in meditating every day to deal with my thoughts – which at times means being in a kind of fucked-up space for a little while – and be absolutely ok with them.

If you try to spend more time thinking (as well as not thinking) and use that beautiful brain of yours in the way it’s supposed to, chances are you’d be amazed at what ideas you can come up with. But of course it takes time, and that is only if you’re courageous enough to get past the discomfort of sitting still, just you and your thoughts, because that could be a challenge in and of itself. The positive thing about it is that you’ll find a big payout waiting for you on the other side of it.

The easiest way to get started:

  • Do a 10-minute meditation or mindfulness after work, or in the morning after waking up. Use Headspace (paid with a free trial), Waking up (paid with a free trial) or Youtube (free) if you’re starting out.

Bonus tip: I found it much easier to start with a mindfulness practice before freestyling my meditations as it encourages to focus on your breath and your senses. It also helps with getting into the habit of being ok with being bored from time to time.

2) Read a book

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

I was a bit of a book worm when I was little, but I eventually lost interest in reading altogether. At some point, I thought reading wasn’t cool anymore and left all the books and comics to take dust on the shelves. It amazes me how many people relate to this when I mention it.

The coolest thing about books is that they truly touch on some points that one probably doesn’t consider before reading them, because they help to fantasise, give more perspective on things, and open the mind to different ways of thinking. The benefits I just described are some of the core traits of creativity. Most things I write about are inspired by my understanding of the books I read or the podcasts I listen to, an example is how I learned some life lessons from Kevin Hart.

While I particularly enjoy non-fiction books at the moment, there are benefits to reading pretty much every genre, aside from tabloid newspaper – that’s always a no. There are also studies that show how a consistent reading practice enhances brain capacity and creativity.

The easiest way to get started:

  • Pick up any book you might enjoy, give yourself a quota (e.g. 20 pages) to read before you put the book down. Do this every day and you’ll have read at least 2 books a month.

Bonus tip: If you really want to make use of the info you read, at the end of each chapter make a short note of your own thoughts on the content, either on the book itself or on your e-reader/phone.

3) Get physical

Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash

The simplest way for me to put this, is to tell you that you need to move. Your body is not made to sit at a desk all day with minimal movement, it’s against our nature. I appreciate I’m a little late to the party by pointing out how much physical activity is important to your well-being, but did you know that getting a sweat on helps with being more creative? 

When you get moving, your body releases endorphins, which also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. That’s why things such as runner’s high exist. The reaction from chemicals in your body make you feel extremely accomplished.

Moving around (in any way) helps with increasing your mood and getting more creative. And if you don’t want to get sweaty, this study shows that even walking can improve your creative thinking.

The easiest way to get started:

  • Go for a 5-minute run or 10-minute power walk before, during your lunch break, or after work. 

Bonus tip: If you feel a little bit more adventurous, check out some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes in your area, it’s one of the best martial arts out there, good for both dudes and dudettes alike.

4) Write things down

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

One of the most heartbreaking feelings is when ideas don’t get a chance to come to life. Many times I struggled to get creative because my thoughts would get lost somewhere in the ether and never come back. Why did I flush so many ideas down the toilet? Because I was too lazy to take a note of them. Then I started writing.

To give life to your thoughts you have to materialise them in some way, there really is no way around it. I’ve journaled for the last 8-10 months and, while I haven’t always been consistent with it, I found great benefits in simply jotting down ideas, considerations, feelings, and many other things. 

It’s not what I actually put on paper that makes the difference though, is the act of doing it. According to the American Psychological Association, writing helps you to retain memory as well as improving your immune system and your creative thinking.

The easiest way to get started:

  • Write on one page (front and back) of an A5 journal every morning when you wake up, or every night before you go to bed. I suggest A5 because it’s small enough that it only takes less than 10 minutes to fill it up on both sides. You can use that page to write, sketch and doodle.

Bonus tip: If you have an idea but don’t want to type away while you walk, just make a voice note. If you don’t want to deal with the looks of people that might think you’re crazy because you’re speaking to yourself, simply pretend to be on a phone call, just like I do.

5) Learn a new language 

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Learning a new language allowed me to meet more people and open up different career opportunities. What’s even more interesting is that, according to a psychology study, learning a second language increases your creativity in comparison to people who only speak one language. 

I had the luck to be forced to learn a second language when I moved to England about 5 years ago. I’m from a small village in the north of Italy, where it’s easier to hear people speak the local dialect than it is to hear them speak Italian. I guess that counts as three languages now! All jokes aside, while learning and expressing myself in a new language was a struggle at first, it’s proven to be one of the best things I could do for my creative career.

The easiest way to get started:

  • Pick a language you’d like to learn, go to duolingo.com and choose a daily goal from 5 to 20 minutes per day.

Bonus tip: Many of us have a friend from another country or who speaks a different language than ours. Use them to exercise and boost your learning! A language is learnt best by speaking it.


Conclusion

Creativity is essential in our day to day life, it’s present in many of the choices we make and in the majority of the thoughts we have.

While I talk about these daily habits as essentials to be more creative, I don’t they should be initiated all together from the start, as a matter of fact, I’d suggest you simply pick one that you feel is lacking the most in your life and start with the smallest steps possible to achieve it. Don’t stress over it, simply add a healthy habit in your life one bit at a time.

Consistency beats intensity!

Thank you for reading and sharing 🙏


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.