Your natural creative self can sometimes feel stifled by the responsibilities and drama of the daily grind. When this happens, it may begin to feel unnatural to try to think outside the box or to find expression through artistic release. Not to worry though, this is just a lie the mind tells to keep that wheel spinning.
Here are eight of the best holistic strategies we can use at any given moment to clear the mind and get back in touch with that creative balance at the core of our being.
1. Unplug and Reset.
Get up and walk away from the computer screen. Don’t take your mobile device. Go somewhere that doesn’t require external power sources (Hint: this is usually outside). You can do this alone or with a friend, your partner, or your kids. What matters is that when you go, you feel a weight lifted and joy begins to seep in. When you get there, just BE.
It may not sound like much, but in fact it is everything. How will you ever hear what’s going on inside if you never turn off the external noise?
What do you think happens when you step outside the box that makes up your mundane, productive, responsible life? When you stop gazing at the electronic gadgets and screens? When you shut off the focus on yesterday’s hurdles or tomorrow’s problem? When you just allow yourself time to breathe and be in the now?
I’ll tell you what happens and it may seem ironic. You begin to feel connected, though you have essentially unplugged yourself from all those parts of the everyday norm that we value so highly. In fact, you are connected…just not in any way that you can see. It’s an energetic connectivity and it’s like reaching for your personal power cord and plugging in for a re-charge.
Your sensory awareness will begin to feel enlivened. Take in the colors, shapes, and natural movements of your surroundings. Recognize that you are a part of that space. As you interact with that environment and the people who are sharing the moment with you, allow yourself this time to really give your attention over to it. Follow those natural impulses that nudge you to honor the rhythms of that space that match your own.
2. Engage With Your Body.
To light that inner spark of creativity, it’s not only helpful to connect with your natural environment but also with the rhythms of your own body. You must engage your senses and your muscles in some sort of receptive experience.
What do I mean by receptive experience? To be receptive is to be open to receive and to allow a flow of resonating energy. How this applies to your own body awareness and engagement is that when you become receptive you also become aware of and responsive to incoming environmental impressions and shifting focus.
There are many ways by which you can engage with your body. Sure, exercise is an obvious choice and it can mean different things to different people. What kind of movement could you engage your body in that would open pathways of concentration and alignment in your mind? The idea here is to get moving in a way that is comfortable for you. You don’t want to engage in over strenuous activity for this purpose because that could lead to stress – which has a tendency to block the natural flow of creativity. So instead, consider what body activities you could engage in that would be enough to focus your attention on your movements and breath while clearing other mental obstructions.
For some, this may be yoga or simple stretching – for others, it could be mindfulness while walking, jogging, or even jumping on a trampoline. Try listening to your body. Sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed and feel your way through the areas of your body. Start at your toes and move your awareness up through the connected parts till you’ve covered all bases.
What areas are tense? What muscles or regions of your body seem to be anxious or calling out for attention. Take what your body is telling you and implement some sort of strategy into your routine that focuses attention toward those areas that are speaking.
3. Do Something Beyond Reason.
When is the last time you did something just for the fun of it? Do you ever talk about things that have no basis in reality or engage in activities that have no responsible gain anymore? When we were young we all did this. The younger we were in spirit and years, the more inclined we were to be silly, unpredictable, and even nonsensical.
It was okay then because we weren’t being held to the same kinds of standards that we tend to be in our grown-up, real-world, professional lives. It wasn’t necessary for everything we said or did to somehow contribute to our brand, business, or career path.
I’m not saying we didn’t care about these things or that those in our circles didn’t place certain expectations on us, only that we still maintained a part of ourselves that was all about experimentation and wonderment – our sense of play. Responsibilities and focus on advancement and achievement of goals tends to – over time – drown out the connection we feel to this other, lighter side of our being.
Think about something you’ve often wanted to try or take on but never did because you thought it wouldn’t align with your goals or help meet your everyday obligations and responsibilities. Now, don’t continue to think about this thing as far as its merits or how it contributes to this or that in your life. Your spirit expressed an interest – an inclination toward an experience – so follow it and see where it leads you.
Don’t worry about how it looks or whether you should record it for your followers or if it contributes at all to your brand or image. Beyond safety considerations for yourself and others – don’t think at all, just experience. Reflect on it later. I guarantee this will open paths of creative expression and idea generation that you never would’ve seen coming otherwise.
4. Allow Yourself To Lighten Up.
To get back in touch with that lighter part of who we are, as mentioned above, sometimes we just need to act ridiculous. Consider for a moment your own sense of humor. What kinds of things make you laugh?
Humor is one of our most unique and inspirational creative senses. Activating that part of the personality within our experience can literally alter the way we see things by clearing the fog created by stress and overload.
Have you ever noticed how your natural witticism tends to go into hyper-drive when you’re really engaged with others while in a humorous mindset? Think of one of these times from your recent history; maybe you were watching a comedy act with friends or maybe you were up too late and were feeling “slap-happy” – as they say. I’ll bet you can remember the feeling of having your mind light up like a pin ball machine as you spewed forth sarcastic replies and imagined one off scenarios or hysterical imagery while interacting with those in your group.
We’ve all had these moments – and they really speak for themselves. I don’t need to sell you on the idea that bouts of spontaneous humor lead to creative thinking; you know this intuitively and from experience.
Sometimes, the one-liners and ideas that we find in those moments stay with us for a lifetime… filling conversations with loved ones for many years and inspiring new thought streams.
I’ll share a recent moment of slap-happy silliness from my own experience. My husband and I had stayed up watching movies with our girls and afterwards we just lay together on a pallet talking about silly things and laughing about nothing. We were about to go to bed and I was sending the girls their way, but my oldest daughter mentioned that she needed a safety pin for something she was wearing. As she said this I was looking straight at her, giving her my full attention. But as I said, it was late and I was quite tired by this point.
As I stared at her wide-eyed, as one often does when they’re paying attention to someone speak, I began to yawn. It came on slowly, but my brain didn’t catch up to the yawn in time for me to cover my mouth. So Raven stopped speaking and both girls looked at me like, “what’s happening?”
Then Raven said, unsure, “Wh-what, are you yawning?” To which, I immediately responded, “What did you think it was – a slow surprise?” We laughed hysterically about that for several minutes – these things are usually much funnier in the moment, like, you had to be there. But ever since then, we now randomly do “slow surprise” at each other when talking about anything. This lightens the mood and we all share in a laugh. If I were a comedian, I’d probably find a way to make this a part of my act. Instead, I’m thinking – T-Shirt? (LOL)
5. Think Outside Your Own Perspective.
This is something writers have to do quite a bit of in order to develop well-rounded characters and their experiences. Artists do this too by shifting focus and alignment. It’s also a useful critical thinking skill that can lead you down paths of understanding that were previously untraveled. In doing so, connections can be drawn between what you learn and what you know. In other words, when you allow yourself to see something from many angles you are opening pathways to new ideas.
Perspective is all about your ability to see an idea, issue, or experience from a particular viewpoint. That viewpoint may be related to where you are situated physically or it may be related to how you’ve experienced the world around you, relationships, or the things you’ve come to know through study and habit. Because the contributing factors that make up one’s perspective are so varied and personal, they say each is unique.
One thing you should be quite familiar with is your own perspective. But what about taking the perspective of a particular individual, an animal, or even an inanimate object? To consider such a shift would require you to step outside of yourself long enough to really feel the experience of another. It’s all about imagining what it would be like to be that individual or object.
If you’ve ever taken an acting class, then you will be familiar with these sorts of exercises in perspective shifting – as when you perform as a mime and need to relay your thoughts and emotion through action alone. Or, when you play the part of a tree or an animal or any number of character personalities.
Oftentimes, when a professional actor is preparing to play a part, he or she will not only imagine they are their character – they will go so far as to dress like them, eat like them, use their accent, study their mannerisms and behaviors, and learn their history and motivations in life. They go all out to experience the life and perspective of that character. In so doing, many have experienced such profound shifts in awareness that they are noted to be changed by it forever.
Jim Carrey reached his existential crisis after going completely method for his portrayal of Andy Kaufman in the movie Man on the Moon. Adrien Brody has noted many times in interviews that his experience of hunger and isolation while playing the part of Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist has made him more considerate of how war and prejudice affects people and grateful for his own life circumstances. Mary J. Blige has said that playing the part of Florence Jackson in Mudbound gave her a deeper understanding and appreciation for her own natural beauty through cultural heritage. (All noted links – IMDB)
There are countless examples – some more extreme than others, but all significant in the shaping of minds. Having such a profound effect on how you see the world, where you’ve come from, your own circumstances, and the roles we play in life is certainly a pivotal strategy for encouraging openness and clarity within patterns of thought.
Interested in stories like those mentioned about some of our favorite actors playing life changing roles? See Looper’s YouTube roundup videos: Actors Who Were Never The Same After A Role and Roles That Inspired Actors To Change Their Lives.
6. Practice Stream of Consciousness Activities.
Stream of consciousness refers to the unfiltered natural flow of thoughts as they occur in the moment. It’s giving voice to the random, sometimes seemingly incoherent, impressionistic waves of informal observations and emotional insights. It focuses on allowing thought patterns to emerge in whatever way they need to, following instinct through imaginative wondering.
This is a fairly common poetic strategy and is often used in therapeutic journaling as well. The idea is to begin speaking or writing about any chosen topic, perhaps from a certain perspective, emotion, or predetermined mindset. Then, you simply acknowledge the thoughts that continue to follow by continuing to speak or write them – regardless of how it may connect or whether it seems logical.
Stream of consciousness activities can be quite revealing and lead to a lot of new insights. It’s a perfect exercise for drumming up some new, creative ideas during a slump. It can be practiced in multiple ways.
- Spontaneous Spoken Word Poetry.
- Written Poetry or Prose.
- Journal Recording (Freewriting).
- Thought Stream Recording (audio or video).
- Word Collage.
- Free Word Association.
For stream of consciousness activities to work well, your flow should be uninterrupted and remain unimpeded by rules of grammar. You should be totally in your head (or the head of a character) and let flow the attitude, personality, and experiential thought stream that feels most comfortable or natural while in that moment and state of mind. You should refrain from making judgements about each thought as it arises. Many people set a timer for this type of exercise, but this is up to you.
7. Alter Your Environment.
Sometimes the best way to stir up new ideas and encourage a fresh perspective is to change your environment. This could mean to leave your comfort zone and see some new sights or it could mean to give your personal space a face-lift. Either way, when your environment is altered new paths of inspiration tend to emerge and become visible to your mind’s eye.
This is a common concept, as we hear it played out in many adages and traditions. Out with the old, in with the new…they say. Spring cleaning has roots in several cultural and religious traditions, but is also tied to our natural human seasonal rhythms that have us springing back into activity after the slumber of winter. In Eastern traditions, ideas of energy flow and the arrangement of spaces (Feng Shui) encourages the concept of good fortune and life advantages through the organized placement of objects and uncluttered environments.
Whatever ideas and traditions that you align with personally, I’m sure you have experienced the charge of energy that comes from rearranging the furniture or de-cluttering a room, closet, or desk. Think of how free the mind feels when you finish a thorough house cleaning. When we clear our space, the mind seems to follow suit.
Other ways to alter your environment include more radical (and sometimes costly) adjustments, such as redecorating or remodeling. On the more practical and quick side of that coin, simply adding elements that inspire joy and concentration can help to inspire new thought streams as well. Examples include things that delight the senses – art, crystals, chimes, scented candles, oil diffusers, salt lamps, music, etc. Really anything that is viewed as a fresh adjustment will do the trick. Sometimes all you need is to open a window on a rainy day.
As I mentioned above, to gain a new perspective through a change in environment – at times – may require actually visiting another location. Maybe you take a trip into the city or to the countryside, maybe you relax by the water or take a stroll over a bridge, maybe you take in a show or see the current display at an art gallery, maybe you sit in a corner of a library or book store and read – or simply surf the internet from a coffee shop.
8. Read, Listen, Learn..
And finally, to really encourage greater personal creativity, remember that ideas are often born from the thoughts and lessons others have shared through their wisdom, art, and experiences. So listen when others speak. I know as a creative it can be difficult to turn off the chatter of your own mind, but try to make more time to really hear what others have to say. So many times it can be said that brilliant ideas were formed through both casual and meaningful conversations.
Read as often as you can, taking in a variety of persuasions and genres. People who have a lot to say tend to write and they do so in various styles and formats. There is always something to be gained from the experience of immersion into the mind of another creative thinker. You never know how the flame of one creation may spark the inspiration for another in someone else.
Always be learning something. Don’t let the mind become too stagnant within one area of comfortable experience. Instead, seek out new knowledge everyday. Even if it is just one journal article or fun fact of the day, you will succeed in keeping your mind receptive and conditioned toward understanding patterns, drawing connections, and open reasoning.
Another way to keep the mental pathways charged is to find ways to think outside the box and stretch the imagination. Puzzles, riddles, and strategy games are good for this. Engaging in hypothetical conversations and the imagining of far-out scenarios through question led explorations are some other mind conditioning techniques that work well in this capacity.
Each of these strategies for activating the creative within can be easily tied to the others and combined at will. The list is here to encourage ideas in thinking of the various ways to overcome stagnation and boredom within the creative’s everyday life. Sometimes we get stuck and simply need to shift our focus and unhinge our position in order to stir up inspiration and renew excitement over the possibilities of creating.
I do hope that you’ve found these tips to be practical and useful. What is something that you’ve tried before that unlocked feelings of renewal within and motivated you to create or inspired new ideas? Tell me about it in the comments. And also, let me know what you think about some of the strategies mentioned here. How will you implement some of these into your time?