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Five ways to ignite your creativity (without spending money)
Raise your hand if you feel creative every moment of every day.
Don’t worry, our hands aren’t up either. Finding daily inspiration can become challenging, especially when most of us have some pretty mundane daily tasks to complete before we can pull out our pens or paint brushes. So, without booking a one-way ticket to Bali, how does one find inspiration? Here are five places to start.
When you take time out to reflect on past experiences of awe or inspiration, it helps to break up routine and challenges you to think in new ways. If you’re feeling tied down by your day-to-day chores or tasks at work, the simple act of writing can help you escape. Research suggests that awe has a way of lifting people outside of their everyday selves and helping them feel connected to something bigger. In three experiments, the participants who were induced to feel awe felt that they had more free time, more patience, and were more willing to spend time helping others.
For this writing activity, think back to a time where you felt truly in awe of something you saw, heard, or experienced. Maybe you visited a beautiful lake during a vacation, or heard an inspiring speech. Maybe you witnessed something beautiful and unexpected in the middle of a packed subway car. Whatever it was, write about it in as much detail as you can remember; the more detail, the better. Recalling the awe-inspiring moment in vivid detail can bring back the feelings you had during the moment it happened.
We all know travel is an amazing source of inspiration for creativity, but if you’re short on time—and cash—you’re going to have to look for more economical methods of getting around and sightseeing. Two great options are: your legs! Yes, simply going for a walk in an unfamiliar setting can incite all sorts of creativity. Research has shown that spending time outdoors increases your attention span and creative problem-solving skills, so setting aside even an hour a day for a walk can not only get your heart pumping, but your brain too. Find a trail lined with tall trees, the shore of a nearby ocean or lake, or any park you’ve never visited before. Leave your cellphone on your desk (if that’s an option) so that you can be fully present, and make an effort to pay attention to nature around you.
If you don’t have much in terms of natural scenery where you work or live, you can use an urban setting for inspiration too. Even if you follow your regular route, make a point to discover something new. Look up at the buildings you pass by every day when you walk (safely, of course), pay attention to signs you usually ignore, people-watch from a park bench you usually bypass. When you really start taking time out to be present in the moment, you’ll be amazed by the sources of inspiration you can find without even needing to change your routine.
Check out some free events
Since you’re doing all this exploring, you may as well find some cool events to pop into, too. If you live in even an average-sized city, you could probably find at least five free events taking place daily. You’ll find things like free movies in the park, open mic nights at a coffee shop, trivia nights at a local pub, or even museums or art galleries that don’t charge visitors during certain times of day. Libraries, bars, coffee shops and community centers often host free gigs, so make sure to check local newspapers or websites for monthly—or weekly—listings. If you’re a writer, check out some music. If you’re a musician, check out some poetry. If you’re a designer, maybe try a free cooking class. Get out of your comfort zone and find ways to be creative you haven’t tried before!
Take a breather
Looking for something a little closer to home (or office)? You could skip all the walking and exploring and find just as much inspiration doing mindfulness meditation in your office for as few as ten minutes a day. Meditation has been proven to help with three essential skills needed for creative problem solving, the first one being divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas through the exploration of multiple solutions. In other words, meditation helps you see things from a different perspective. Mindfulness practice also improves focus and attention, making it easier to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas. And thirdly, mindfulness helps nurture courage and resilience, so you’re able to keep exploring new solutions even when some of them inevitably don’t pan out.
What does this all mean for you? It means setting aside some quiet time in your day to practice mindful meditation can greatly impact your creativity, and give you brand new sources of inspiration.
Get to know a colleague
Sometimes inspiration can be found in learning something new about someone, interacting in a new way, or even challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone. If you don’t work alone, chances are your employees or co-workers feel the same way you do, and are looking for new sources of inspiration too. Taking some time out of your day to interact with colleagues and take part in team-building activities not only gets your creative juices flowing, but it also increases morale and engagement.
Here are a few options you can start with:
- A simple team activity based on improv is “the story game.” Each person adds a single word, one at a time, that when combined create a story. For example, the person starting says “one,” the next person says “day,” the next says “we” and so on and so forth. People are required to pay attention, work together, and be creative to ensure the story makes sense. And if it doesn’t, it’ll be even funnier. This game not only gets people laughing, but it improves necessary skills like listening, collaborating, and conflict resolution.
- Everyone loves the classic “two truths and a lie.” The fun thing about this game is the better you know someone, the more creative you’ve got to be. Each person takes a turn declaring three statements about themselves; two truthful, and one made up. The others must guess which statement is the lie. A simple concept, but one that gets colleagues opening up and really getting to know one another.
- “What I like about you,” like the others, is simple but can help colleagues feel more comfortable around one another, opening them up to inspiration. Each person gets a piece of paper and writes his or her name on top. Each person then writes down things they like about the person named on each sheet of paper. Everyone must make their way to each person’s sheet. Afterwards, each person collects their paper so they can see what colleagues have said about them. These pieces of paper not only help people feel inspired in the moment, but they can be kept and placed around the office, available any time someone needs a boost of inspiration.
The great thing about inspiration is it usually leads to… more inspiration. Try some of these suggestions next time you’re wondering why you got into a creative field (we all feel that way sometimes!), and we guarantee you’ll remember soon enough!