In the Flow: Mental Fitness Exercises and Resources to Boost Creativity

There’s a lot of discussion out there about staying physically fit. The internet is filled with articles on how to train our bodies for marathons or how to reduce fat while building muscle. But what about our brains? How do we get mentally fit or boost our creativity?

For starters, try engaging in cardio activity (or aerobic exercise) outdoors in nature. This has been scientifically proven to boost activity within the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls thinking and cognition. It influences our mood while also allowing us to detect the emotions of others. And yes, it also controls creativity.

Outdoor exercise is important for creativity because it forces us to unplug from technology. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Distractions like the internet, our smartphones, and social media actually change the way our brain works and can limit our creativity. Therefore, one prime way to boost creativity is by literally unplugging from technology and surrounding yourself in nature.

Nature also has what ecologists call a “soft fascination” effect on the human brain. When we are surrounded by nature – whether walking through a forest, enjoying a skiing trip, or swimming in the ocean – electrochemical changes occur in our brain. These changes allow our minds to enter a highly beneficial, happier state that leads to what scientists describe as “effortless attention.” And yes, creativity.

Of course, physical exercises are not the only exercises that improve your creative flow. It is also important to engage in mental fitness exercises, such as meditation. In addition to reducing stress, promoting happiness and well-being, and encouraging a sense of calm, meditation transforms the brain by teaching the powers observation and attention. These skills are all very closely linked to creativity.

Mind mapping can also be a mental fitness tool. By literally drawing out your thoughts, feelings and goals, you can get clear on what you want out of life; get organized in your life; and move past linear thinking into more creative brainstorming about your life. This can be a quick and effective way to get into a creative flow.

If you’ve cut down on drinking, increased your cardio, and started spending more time in nature, you’re already on your way to that desired state of “effortless attention” and creativity. When you begin your journey towards mental fitness and creativity, be gentle with yourself. Try not to get frustrated or discouraged if your mind tends to wander at first. Just notice the thoughts as they come, and try not to judge your own experience. Over time, the answers will come to you – and so will the creative flow.

Photo credit: Pixabay