Imagination and creativity are two words that we often use as synonyms. Yes, they are closely related, but there is an important difference between them.
Imagination is the gateway to creativity. We cannot do anything creative without engaging our imagination. Have you ever taken on a creative task, like developing a new project or strategy, only to find yourself drawing a blank? It happens to all of us and can lead to stress and anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to be imaginative. Various techniques, such as brainstorming and design thinking, can be useful, but without connecting with your imagination, they simply will not work.
Imagination is something we are all born with, but throughout our lives, it can feel like we become more and more distant from our imaginative selves. Society expects adults to be disciplined and sensible, our school system values rote learning and testing, and, in general, we are stressed and lack the free time necessary to explore our imaginations. On top of that, we are also bombarded with stimulation from technology, the internet, and social media.
But there is a hope for us and our imaginations! There are some tips and tricks that we can use to make tapping into our imaginations easier. In this blog, I look at some of the techniques that can help hone imagination and creativity.
1. Take a walk
Stanford University researchers found that walking stimulates imagination. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60% when walking. Walking in nature, listening to its sounds, and breathing fresh air will boost your free thinking even more.
Meditating for 15 to 20 minutes can help clear your mind. Meditation calms the brain down and eliminates a lot of the thoughts we fill our heads with every day. It stimulates the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for remembering, but is also involved in our ability to imagine the future.
3. Read fiction books
Reading, especially fiction, is like a workout for your imagination. It stimulates your brain to picture everything on the page, rather than having it all shown to you on a screen. Your imagination creates the fictional world you read about and endows it with emotion, feeling, and memories. To your heart and your mind, it is real. This is the power of imagination!
4. Daydreaming and boredom
Try to ensure that even just a small part of your day is free from screens, internet, wi-fi, and mobile devices. Do nothing and allow yourself to daydream! Boredom is often seen as a purely negative thing, but it can also be a way to free your mind. I remember myself as a bored kid. I hated this feeling and would play and explore to occupy myself. Some of the best ideas and games came from boredom.
5. Do simple tasks
In one 2013 study, British psychologist Sandi Mann divided subjects into two groups and gave both a creative task of listing different uses for a pair of polystyrene cups. However, with one group, they first gave them the very tedious and boring task of copying numbers from a phone directory for 15 minutes before the creative task. This group that had to first endure boredom outperformed the other group. Overall the study found that “passive boring activities, like reading or perhaps attending meetings, can lead to more creativity”. Incorporating simple tasks into your day, even if it’s just cleaning, cooking, walking or yoga, can allow your brain to be calm and help to boost your imagination.
6. Tell a story
Your voice is connected to emotions and emotions influence imagination. That is why singing in the shower helps many of us to come up with new ideas. Singing but also sharing thoughts and storytelling stimulates imagination.
You don’t need to be Picasso to draw or paint. You might even be as terrible at this as I am! But using markers, pencils and a piece of paper can awaken your imagination. If you are more creatively inclined, you can also use a sketch pad or download a doodling app on your phone. Just let your imagination run wild and draw whatever comes into your mind. Doodling can reduce stress, enhance the problem-solving centre of your brain, and boost imagination.
8. Find blue
Blue is often called the colour of the mind. Strong blues will evoke clear thoughts while soft blues will help us stay focused and serene at the same time. So, if you need to connect with your imagination wear something blue, look at a blue piece of art, or just stare at the sky.
9. Change your routine
When you choose different ways of doing your daily tasks, you activate your brain to learn and to be more open to the unknown. If you are right-handed, try to use your left hand when brushing your teeth. Choose different routes to routine destinations. Try something new, such as a new recipe or workout. If you usually read fiction, spend 10 minutes reading poetry instead. The possibilities are limitless!
This is a step up from daydreaming. It is more like giving your imagination a simple but specific task. For example, while you are commuting on public transport, resting, or just find yourself bored one day, try to imagine something in extreme detail. It could be your dream house or a place you would like to visit. Try to see colours, details of decoration, maybe even imagine the smell. If it is a house, you can imagine yourself walking along the corridors and into the bedrooms, sitting on the couch, etc. Let your mind and spirit really experience this journey.
Let’s train our imaginations! It is the most precious and unique thing we have as humans. At M-Powered we believe that with imagination, we can all help to build a better world.