Written by The Greatist Team
We already know being creative can make us happier and healthier. But while we may think of creativity in terms of writing a novel or painting a masterpiece, experts say it can really mean anything from trying a new recipe to submitting an original idea during a meeting.
Here we’ve got 33 fun ways to fire up that creative spark, from having a drink to taking a nap—seriously.
1. Listen to music.
Jamming out stimulates the part of our brain that controls motor actions, emotions, and creativity.Large-scale brain networks emerge from dynamic processing of musical timbre, key and rhythm. Alluri V, Toiviainen P, Jääskeläinen IP. NeuroImage, 2011, Nov.;59(4):1095-9572. Classical music might give us an extra boost: According to “The Mozart Effect,” listening to Mozart can increase creativity, concentration, and other cognitive functions. Though it’s not clear if this effect works for everyone, but a little classical music probably won’t hurt.
Stuck in a mental rut? When panic strikes, try meditating: It promotes divergent thinking, a state of mind in which we’re able to generate new ideas.
3. Get someone else’s opinion.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A friend might mention something that sparks a whole new stream of thought. The more ideas and perspectives, the better.
4. Think about something far away.
Research suggests our ability to solve problems improves when we think about events far off in the past or future or in another location. So picture New Year’s Eve 2022 or dining at a café in Paris and let your imagination go.
5. Write by hand.
Carrie Barron, M.D., and Alton Barron, M.D., authors of The Creativity Cure, advise us to skip the Word doc and pick up a pen instead. Sometimes the whole experience of writing by hand—the ink on our fingers, the smell of a fresh notebook—is all it takes to get creative juices flowing.
What was I saying? Oh, right. We tend to take a more creative approach to problems when our mind is wandering (less so when we’re hunched over a computer with a deadline looming). So don’t worry about zoning out for a few minutes.
7. Look at something blue or green.
These colors tend to enhance performance on cognitive tasks. Researchers say that’s because we associate blue with the ocean, sky, and openness in general, while green signals growth. Check out that globe the next time a problem pops up.Blue or red? Exploring the effect of color on cognitive task performances. Mehta R, Zhu RJ. Science (New York, N.Y.), 2009, Feb.;323(5918):1095-9203. Fertile green: green facilitates creative performance. Lichtenfeld S, Elliot AJ, Maier MA. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 2012, Mar.;38(6):1552-7433.
8. Gesture with two hands.
Odd but true: One study found using two hands to explain something prompts the brain to consider issues from multiple perspectives.Embodied metaphors and creative “acts”. Leung AK, Kim S, Polman E. Psychological science, 2012, Apr.;23(5):1467-9280. (It’s also possible that using the left hand stimulates creative thought, since left-handed people tend to be more creative in general.)
9. Sit outside a box.
Though it might sound a little strange, in one study, people who sat outside a box (literally) were better at thinking creatively than people who sat in it.Embodied metaphors and creative “acts”. Leung AK, Kim S, Polman E. Psychological science, 2012, Apr.;23(5):1467-9280. No cardboard container handy? Try sitting in the hallway outside a room.
10. Have some booze.
In one study, participants who knocked back an average of three drinks were more creative than people who didn’t drink at all.Uncorking the muse: alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Jarosz AF, Colflesh GJ, Wiley J. Consciousness and cognition, 2012, Jan.;21(1):1090-2376. That’s possibly because a little alcohol lets us think more broadly, finding connections between unrelated ideas. But hey, keep it classy: There’s nothing creative about a pile of vomit or other less desirable outcomes.