The mind is a temperamental thing when it comes to creativity. We all know that the right place paired with the right activity at the right time can spark some of our most profound, thoughtful ideas. But without that combination, we are often left feeling uninspired, and truthfully, a little lost.
Whether you're a painter who has lost your muse, an author suffering from a seemingly endless case of writer's block, or an entrepreneur struggling to figure out the perfect way to launch a new business, you are just as susceptible to falling into a creativity rut as the next person. However, it's simply a matter of knowing how to pull yourself out of it that will reignite your imagination and bring you some of your best ideas yet.
Up against a creativity roadblock? Here are 14 ways to work through it.
Go for a walk.
A stroll alongside nature is like playtime for adults—in the same way that children experience some of their most imaginative moments on a playground or in a sandbox, adults can utilize the physical space to let their minds wander freely and stumble across any idea that arrives organically. And keeping moving proves far more productive than the alternative. Researchers at Stanford University recently found that walking helps boost creative inspiration by 60 percent when compared to sitting.
Experiment in the kitchen.
Set those recipe cards aside and see what new cuisine combinations you come up with by just using what’s in your pantry and refrigerator. Creating meals for different times of the day or for different occasions can really open your mind to the infinite possibilities within the culinary world and beyond.
"Just like making music or poetry, cooking requires understanding interconnectedness and harmonies," said Faisal Hoque, author of Everything Connects: How To Transform And Lead In The Age Of Creativity, Innovation And Sustainability, in a recent Business Insider article. "Understanding the relationships between the ingredients and their interactions is crucial to creating a successful dish. This conscious openness is precisely what is at the heart of any creative process regardless of what we do and the medium we use."
Read a book for fun.
Go ahead—dive head-first into that novel that's been waiting on your bookshelf the past few months! Immersing yourself in the story will require active engagement and concentration, taking you away from the frustration you're feeling from your creativity block. As the story absorbs your attention, you'll visualize its plot line, absorb its message and develop new insights of your own that just might help you find what you've been searching for.
One of the best way to get those creative juices flowing again is to get your blood pumping. Our minds naturally relax when we are physically active, allowing for less stress and more wandering. A recent study found that people who were more active were also more successful creatively, thanks to their ability to solve problems and come up with new ideas.
Think happy thoughts.
Surprise, surprise—we do some of our best creative thinking when we are in a positive mood. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a happy mood has the ability to help us free our minds, thus opening us up to thinking more imaginatively.
"Having a positive mood affects your attention—it can broaden your visual field, literally," said Dr. Adam Anderson, the lead author of the study. "A negative mood results in tunnel vision, making you focus on just the things you are anxious about—everything else falls out of this focus and doesn't matter."
Ask yourself, “What if?”
If you need a creativity boost in the short term, asking yourself questions that require a little counterfactual thinking could help open your mind to new perspectives. Simply take completed events from the past and imagine different outcomes, deleting existing details while adding some of your own. Re-painting that mental picture can also erase other thoughts currently blocking your mind from where you're trying to go.
Daydream a little.
Pushing yourself to solve a problem can sometimes drive the solution further away. Instead, let your mind wander. Research has shown not only that the brain continues to work on problem-solving during a daydream, but also that creative solutions may be discovered through general, unconscious thought. So take a break from that aggravating question coursing through your mind—the answer will come to you soon enough.
Indulge in a little “me” time.
Psychologist Rollo May once said, “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude."
Oftentimes a lack of inspiration isn't the culprit of a creativity rut, but rather overstimulation in general. Allowing yourself space physically, mentally, and emotionally for reflection can create a new sense of clarity as well as a dose of inspiration. Embrace solitude and focus on the thoughts you can suddenly hear among the silence.
Write in a journal.
Sometimes one of the best ways to sort though a mind racing with thoughts is to put pen to paper and write it all down. Journaling not only provides emotional relief, but also allows for you to see your thoughts in a tangible space and make sense of them from a new perspective. Giving them room to breathe will also allow for new thoughts and ideas to trickle in and fill that newfound space.
Step outside your comfort zone.
For those who are naturally creative minds, it's imperative that you continually challenge yourself with new tasks in order to grow. Novelty can be one of the best sparks for creativity, whether than means testing out a new hobby or avoiding the use of patterns or solutions from the past. Take on each day and project with a new view, and don't be afraid to push those boundaries and see what happens.
The benefits of meditation are far from limited to stress relief and relaxation. A study published in Frontiers in Cognition found that open monitoring meditation (where the individual is receptive to all thoughts and sensations without focusing on any particular one) improved participants' divergent thinking, a key component of the creative process. Not only are college students using meditation to channel their creative power, but many businesses are now jumping on the meditation bandwagon as well, encouraging their employees to use the technique as they search for new ideas.
Surround yourself with all things blue.
There's a reason we love gazing up at the sky and out at the sea so much—the pretty blue hues put us in a relaxed mood and help our minds wander to the most creative of places. A University of British Columbia study found that while the color red helps develop sharper memories, the color blue helps unlock your imagination.
Take a vacation.
Sometimes it takes a total change of pace and scenery to reset the mind. Whether you can afford to take a few days off or simply enjoy the weekend, make a point to surround yourself with a culture different from your own. A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that multicultural experiences share a direct connection with creative cognition. So explore a new country, a new state, or simply a new neighborhood to open your eyes as well as your mind.
Sit amid a little static noise.
You might find that dull roar in the coffee shop too distracting most days, but that distraction might be just what you need to break free of that persistent mental block. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that a moderate level of ambient noise actually enhances one's performance on creative tasks. So the next time you sit down with your cup of coffee, welcome the little distractions. You never know where they'll lead you.