It pays to be clean!

We are relied upon by clients to bring the sizzle and make things exciting. Excitement comes from new and vibrant ideas that can help distinguish a client from the field. In noisier marketplaces, you can either shout loudest by spending above all others, or you can be creative and catch attention. We like the creative approach. The challenge with creativity, however, is that the process is invariably difficult to start. I have found a venue that really sparks my creative process and I’m going to share it with you… The shower

I like to shower. A big treat for me is to let everyone have their wash and then get in and stay there until all the hot water has emptied from the tank. My husband bemoans losing me on occasion to a ‘Hollywood’ shower lasting over 15 minutes. I was once extracted from my parent’s electric shower after nigh on 30 minutes when I realised the water would just keep coming!

The process of getting clean is important to me (obviously!) but I have found that the shower is a great source of creative inspiration. I’m not alone in this realisation and wasn’t surprised to see that there is a fair bit of scientific research behind it. So, I’ve uncovered and abbreviated a fair bit of research for your delectation.

The key is to access the unconscious mind and to, bear with me, ‘think without thinking’!

Every day we go through processes and our brain forms connections to allow for an easier ride. This conscious brain wants to make things easy and regularly used connections are forged to make it flow easily. The creative brain comes into its own when the usual pathways aren’t firing, and new thoughts can take place.

One of the best job descriptions I’ve heard of belongs to John Kounios. He studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He spotted that when we are only mildly physically or mentally active our brain is free to roam slightly. Mix in a small amount of engagement, not boredom and something special happens.

The brain is active but free to roam and, the further it can roam, the better. If you happen to be in familiar surroundings, the lack of anxiety or tension melts away and a common activity suddenly becomes a creative space like few others, as bigger creative webs are spun in the brain.

Not having an explicit task is the main ingredient for random insights,” Kounios said. “Once you have a pen and paper there, it’s not really your mind wandering.

Things continue with the author of ‘Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation’. R. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, who has spent a lot of time studying this mental process. He refers to the three b’s – bathtub, bed and bus as places where sudden inspiration often occurs. By stepping away from a quandary and switching context, different parts of the brain can be accessed.

Doing a monotonous activity, the unconscious mind is free to work on something else. Attention wanders and there is freedom for the prefrontal cortex (the command centre of the brain with control over decision making and behaviour) to fall into a relaxed state. With the cortex in a dormant mode, new, creative connections are free to fire. Often, thoughts dismissed abruptly by the conscious mind have the chance to develop and evolve leading to eureka moments!

In the shower, you are alone and in a safe enclosed space. If, like me, you enjoy showering there is a bonus of the brain releasing a small shot of dopamine. Often dubbed ‘the pleasure hormone’. Dopamine is associated with feelings of euphoria, bliss, motivation, and concentration. These catalyse the already wandering brain into forging new connections and new thought.

As your mind is wandering the creative flow can be further hastened by the flow of alpha waves. Normally associated with sleep, alpha waves are released when the brain is in an idle state and this is the final part of the magnificent brain chemistry of the shower! If you recall your dreams, they are invariably a bit wilder than reality and show how the unconscious mind is a hub for creativity!

No less than John Cleese ruminated about the unconscious mind when recalling a sketch he was writing with Graham Chapman. He had lost a piece he’d written and had to redo it from memory very quickly and without thinking. By not considering the work, he had ‘thought without thinking’ and created a better bit of writing!

The only thing I could think was that my unconscious had been working on the sketch and improving it ever since I wrote it. I began to see a lot of my best work seemed to come as a result of my unconscious working on things when I wasn’t really attending to them.”

So, there you have it, a brief tour of the brain to see one of the means by which SMITHKIN BAKER keep the creativity flowing; albeit at times, naked.

If you think we can be of assistance, do let us know.

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Faye Allyn

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