We sometimes think of creativity as an innate gift: something you either have or you don’t. And whilst it’s true that certain personality types are generally perceived as being more creative, creativity is actually a habit that anyone can cultivate. In fact, being creative is not just about waiting for inspiration to strike, it requires continual practice.
If you feel like you could use some tips to improve your creativity, you’ve come to the right place. Here are eight brain hacks that will help you on your way.
1. Retreat into nature
Have you ever wondered why the great Romance poets revered nature so much? Turns out they were onto something. Multiple studies conclude that being in green spaces makes humans happier, more relaxed and yes, more creative. Even a quick 15-minute walk in the wild is enough to reduce your stress hormone levels. And being in nature positively influences your directed-attention, which is needed for idea generation and creative thinking. Away from the busyness of everyday life, you have time to slow down and let inspiration find you.
Best for: ISFJs and ENTJs. We don’t often put these two personality types together, but they both have a tendency to overthink things. Whether you’re an ISFJ with too much on your plate, or an ENTJ who is always in charge of things, you could benefit from some time dwelling in nature.
2. Add some movement to your day
There are many benefits to exercise, and one of them is it helps you come up with new ideas.
In one recent study, researchers found that people who were more active were able to come up with more ideas than those in the sedentary group. If you’re the type of person who spends too much time caught up in your head, moving your body could be the key to helping you break through the analysis paralysis and gain mental clarity.
3. Laugh more
Laughter has numerous benefits for your mental wellbeing, and it could also turn you into a more creative person. How? Well, it all boils down to the power of humor in changing your mood.
Having a laugh increases your optimism about future events and helps tune your mind into the world of possibility. Both mindsets are critical to creative thinking. As a 2010 MIT study put it, “spontaneous humor production is strongly related to creativity, as both involve making non-obvious connections between seemingly unrelated things.”
Laughing can also help you get out of the cycle of fixating thoughts that trap you inside your mind. My tip? If you're feeling mentally stuck, instead of banging your head against a wall, try taking power away from the situation by having a laugh.
4. Set up rewards for yourself
Another helpful strategy to get those creative juices flowing is to set up a reward system. Though this strategy may not work for everyone, an PA article suggests that treating yourself with a reward after completing a creative project may lead you to be even more creative. That's because rewards help your brain develop an association between completing the task and feeling good. This can motivate you to repeat the behavior in the future.
Best for: ISTJs and ISTPs who could benefit from some moments of self-indulgence to complete their creative projects. These types don’t always let themselves enjoy the creative process, so a reward system can help them stay motivated.
5. Tap into your emotions
Emotions can also act as fuel to creativity. In fact, research has found that both positive and negative emotions are connected with creative thinking. So next time you find yourself in a loop of negative emotions, remember Carrie Fisher’s words of wisdom: “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”
Best for: ENFPs and ESFPs: Feelers who need to "feel their feels" by externalizing them could gain by channeling those emotions into some creative outlets. That way, they can learn to use their emotional intelligence as a source of power, rather than becoming overpowered by it.
6. Create the appropriate environment
Creating an inspiring environment can also stimulate your creativity. What that ideal setting looks like varies from person to person. I have a beautiful watercolor framed over my desk, for example, that brings me comfort and inspiration while working.
Think about what objects you can surround yourself with that inspire you. As a rule of thumb, consider adding some plants. Research shows that “greenery in the office, such as plants and green walls, was associated with higher levels of creativity.”
Best for: ENTPs and INTPs. These types live in their heads and may struggle to flesh out their ideal into real-world solutions. When you lack motivation, having a stimulating visual reference nearby might help you unlock your creativity.
7. Let your mind wander
Let’s face it: it’s challenging to generate good ideas when you're feeling pressured. That’s where daydreaming comes in. That's right – letting your mind wander free could help you get your creative juices flowing.
It may sound counterintuitive (especially if you’re an over analytical Judger) but creativity is often born out of boredom. It needs room to breathe.
Think about it. Can you come up with new ideas when your mind is filled with responsibilities and to-do lists? Probably not. That changes when you have nothing to occupy yourself with; no tasks or distractions. In a 2014 study, bored participants performed much better at creativity tests than other groups.
Bottom line? If you want to get a fresh angle on a situation, let your mind wander and see where it takes you.
Best for: ISFPs and INFPs, who are natural daydreamers and beauty seekers. They’re the types most likely to benefit from this strategy because it allows them to mentally wander without feeling guilty about it.
8. Involve others
A common misconception about creativity I love to dismantle is the myth of the solitary genius. You know what I’m talking about – the image of the misanthrope writer with a messy desk full of coffee stains who disappears for months on end, only to reemerge with a finished masterpiece. Or the mad scientist who locks himself up in a lab, only to invent something that revolutionizes the world.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have mental space to engage in creative work. But creativity is deeply enriched from interaction with others. By hearing other people’s stories and involving them in your life, you can expand your perspective and discover new ways of thinking and solving problems.
Best for: ENFJs and ESFJs: Two extraverted personalities who thrive when nurturing and championing other people. By involving others, they get to use their natural people skills to further their creative efforts.