Creativity taken a hiatus? Blame stress. As soon as cortisol levels rise, imagination dives. Ironically, though, a boost in your creative juices is exactly what you need when you’re facing fear, doubt, overload, and anxiety. One scholarly article published in A Journal of the American Art Therapy Association discovered that after spending 45 minutes at a preferred artistic activity, 75% of study participants experienced lowered stress.
You may not have a full 45 minutes to devote to a diversion from the ho-hum. Life’s busy, after all. But merely a half hour devoted to any of the following breaktime experiences can reset your stress-o-meter.
1. Commune With Nature
When a team of researchers from the United Kingdom analyzed the correlation between access to green spaces and general well-being, they came to a solid conclusion: Spending time outdoors produces measurable positive health effects. The authors noted that people who communed with nature regularly presented lowered stress markers and increased sleep. Both outcomes correspond with being more open to creative thinking, because it’s much easier for your muse to romp free when you’re calm and well-rested.
For many of us, getting closer to greener places could mean walking down the street to the nearest park. However, even cruising around a more urban community on a bike during your lunch hour gets you fresh air and interesting scenery. If you’re concerned about getting too sweaty or overdoing it, invest in a high-tech, eco-friendly electric bike with options for pedal or no-pedal. That way, you’ll be able to get outside, engage in some birdwatching or sightseeing, and not have to commit to a high-impact workout.
2. Spend Some Playtime With Toys Meant for Kids
Legendary toys such as building bricks, Lincoln logs, and erector sets aren’t just for the younger set. They’re also fantastic ways to recharge your innovative thinking. You may feel strange getting into LEGO-mode or laying down the tracks to an authentic Lionel toy train set. Yet transporting your memory and brain back to a pleasant time frees you to reframe your current situation. Allow yourself to indulge in some youthful creativeness now and then. No one has to know that your brilliant sales funnel solution came courtesy of a can of scented Playdough.
3. Watch a Documentary About an Interesting Subject
Instead of mindlessly rambling down the Internet’s vast number of Wiki rabbit holes or scrolling through social media looking for ever-more elusive levels of validation, spend a little time with full-fledged documentaries. Don’t worry: They’re not all meant to bore you to tears. Plenty of free documentaries available on sites like PBS, The History Channel, and Discovery offer fascinating deep-dives into topics from art history and architecture to famous—and infamous—people and events.
Let yourself get engrossed in what you see and hear. At the same time, jot down random thoughts or concepts spurred by what you see and hear. You never know when inspiration can strike. Perhaps watching a biography of the world’s earliest aviators will help you finally soar through a mental block that’s been holding you back.
4. Take up a Hobby
When coronavirus hit hard and suddenly in March 2020, most people found themselves knee-deep in quarantine and working-from-home doldrums. What did they do to take their minds off the situation and reduce their stress? Some people picked up new or long-neglected hobbies.
Whether you’re at home or at work, putting aside time for a hobby gives you a chance to refresh and refuel. Crocheting, sewing, and knitting can be done even if you’re tethered to your office instead of able to roam around. And building a perfect paper airplane only requires a flat surface, paper, and a bit of patience. If you have access to a kitchen area, you can whip up an interesting food dish or baked goods. It doesn’t take long for you to move your mind to a task that’s a far cry from the head-scratching conundrums you’re trying to solve.
5. Put on Earbuds and Discover Different Music
When was the last time you actively listened to music that you haven’t heard before? Most people go back to the same well time and again, building trusted Pandora and Spotify lists. That’s well and good, but it might not boost your creativity as much as occasionally trying some different tunes.
A great start could be to explore radio stations from around the globe. Listen to what’s being played halfway around the world. Or pick a genre that you know little about, such as opera, rockabilly, Broadway hits, or chanting. Who knows? You might surprise yourself by falling head over heels for a type of music or band that you never would have known about otherwise. Even if you don’t love what you hear, you’ll broaden your sphere of knowledge. The more you self-educate in all areas, including the performing arts, the more well-rounded and innovative you’ll be.
6. Go on a TED Talk Adventure
The TED Talk library is a truly wondrous location on the web. There, you’ll find inspirational fodder told by top storytellers and famous faces. It’s not hard to find something to tempt you away from your work: TED Talks offer everything from constructing windmills to secrets only Archimedes knew—at least until now.
One word to the wise, though: TED Talks can become highly addictive. Set a timer or you could spend hours glued to your laptop or phone. When you find one that you think a family member, friend, or colleague would appreciate, pass the link along. Part of the fun of helping yourself become a stronger creator is helping others on their own imagination journeys.
If you’ve wrestled with stress and anxiousness recently, you may feel like you’re never going to generate clever or original “Aha!” moments again. Take heart: Your innate capacity for visionary answers isn’t lost. It just needs some proactive TLC to coax it to the surface. Hasten its comeback by setting aside 30-minute intervals each day for whimsical, offbeat, educational, or adrenaline-boosting experiences. You’ll be amazed by how much simpler it’ll be to solve the riddles of ordinary life when you’re not locked out of your creative vaults.