For some of us, mornings can be a challenge, but once you’ve mastered the art of getting out of bed, it’s time to milk the early hours for all their creative potential. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, you’ll find something on this list of proven mind boosters and idea generators that you can tuck into your day without sacrificing any precious sleep.
1. Listen to Mozart or a Bedouin Rock Band: Some studies suggest that listening to Mozart increases pleasure and your ability to create. If you’re not a fan of Mozart, look for a genre of music you haven’t explored yet, since one of the key elements of activating creativity is novelty, whether it’s trying something new or doing habitual things in a different way.
2. Get out your notebook: Even in the digital age, writing by hand remains a coveted tool for the artistically inclined. Stream-of-consciousness writing or journaling are good for freeing up headspace, but you can also try one of these exercises, which encourage looking at the ordinary from a different angle.
Exercise 1: Look out your window and describe the weather. Do this every day over the course of a week or even a month and you’ll discover that not all sunny mornings are the same and that there are a hundred shades of gray in a cloudy sky.
Exercise 2: Work on your mental flexibility by writing a letter without using the words I, me, mine or my, as recommended by the writer Dorothea Brande in Wake Up and Live.
3. Meditate: One study has found a positive correlation between meditation and divergent thinking, which allows you to come up with several possible solutions to a single problem and generate multiple ideas surrounding one topic. The kind of meditation you do is important. In order to get your divergent thinking going, focus on all sensations in your body as they appear. By being open physically to anything that might come, you create the opportunity to be open intellectually too.
4. Take your coffee with a side of Kafka: “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us,” wrote the author of Metamorphosis. If we take the frozen sea to mean your creative juices, then researchers agree. A study published in Psychological Science found that participants who read an absurdist story by Kafka were better at recognizing novel patterns in an exercise than a control group. One possible explanation is that when your mind is focused on making sense of the nonsensical, it becomes better at making new connections everywhere, the cornerstone of any creative endeavor.
5. Experiment with breakfast: Trying out new recipes and discovering flavors will excite your mind and your taste buds, but if you don’t have the time for flights of culinary fancy, just add blueberries to your bowl of cereal. In addition to their high antioxidant count, you could benefit from the berry’s hue, which research suggests encourages creative thinking.
6. Watch a cat video: Several studies over the years have found that being in a good mood produces innovative thinking. One of them, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that participants who watched mood-enhancing clips were better at recognizing patterns than those who watched negative or neutral videos. Although the most effective video was of a laughing baby, you could try a little bit of Amy Schumer or anything else that puts a smile on your face.
7. Change up your morning commute: Researchers at Stanford University found that walking boosted creativity by an average of 60 percent when compared to sitting. Walk to work if you can and turn down a different street than you normally take to give your senses fresh material for contemplation. If you’re taking the bus or subway to work, get off one stop early and take in the scenery.
Our brains tend to take the path of least resistance, repeating past thoughts and reaching for ideas that may have become a little tired. The way to change that is to make a conscious effort to bring new sensations into your daily life that make you mind say “what is this thing?” kind of like assembling IKEA furniture without the instructions. In fact, if you have more than ten minutes to spare, you should definitely try that.
Do you have any rituals to unleash your creativity? Tell us in the comments below.
(Photos via Getty)