It turns out there’s actually some truth in the idea that we’re at our most creative when we’re in the shower. Leisurely or relaxing activities (such as showering, exercise or driving home from work, for example) release dopamine, the chemical which provides us with a sense of enjoyment. Dopamine triggers more creative thoughts by increasing activity in certain parts of the brain. A relaxed state of mind is key to creativity because we become more insightful, leaving us more likely to make connections between ideas.
Think about how your mind begins to wander as you drift off to sleep – all sorts of strange thoughts enter your head. This is because areas of your brain which don’t normally connect with each other begin to communicate, linking thoughts and memories randomly. The combinations can cause us to dream up all sorts of unusual ideas.
In a similar sense, neuroscientists also note how disengaging completely from a problem allows the distracted mind to generate ideas subconsciously. Your creative mind (yes, everyone has one) will work in the background to find a solution. So, if you ever feel that you’re trying too hard, don’t worry about pulling the plug for a while – in fact, embrace it.
There’s a reason why an increasing number of businesses are creating more relaxing, open spaces for their employees. As we gain a better understanding of how our minds work, the stigma associated with not dedicating 100% of one’s time on the job to working is slowly fading away. Affording our brains the time to relax and embrace distractions has become a necessary part of the creative process, and it’s improving our ability to dream up bigger and better ideas.