10 Psychological Tricks to Boost Creativity

Some people are gifted with the knack for creativity. If you feel like you aren’t one of those lucky few who draw from a seemingly endless creative wellspring, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of the mundane and expected. Much like a muscle, creativity is something you can cultivate and develop with a little practice and hard work. Sitting back and waiting for inspiration to strike may leave you discouraged. You should look for ways to boost your creativity. 

Woman painting

Creativity is not a passive process. Seek out the things that inspire you and help you focus your attention and mental energy on the task at hand. Check out some of these unique tricks that might help spark your creativity.

  1. Go for a Walk
    • A 2014 study found that people tend to be more creative when they walk as opposed to when they remain seated. Previous research studies have shown that regular physical activity can play an important role in boosting and protecting cognitive abilities. This study revealed that a simple walk could temporarily improve certain types of thinking. So if you are tied to a desk and struggling to come up with a good idea, try going for a quick walk to see if inspiration strikes.
  2. Reward Yourself
    • According to research, rewarding things that are already intrinsically rewarding may backfire and actually reduce motivation, a phenomenon known as the over justification effect. So, it might seem offering a reward for creative thinking might have the opposite effect, stifling creativity and motivation. However, one study revealed that when children were offered an explicit reward for producing creative drawings, the creativity of their work actually increased. 
    • So if you are trying to find inspiration, try promising yourself some type of desirable treat as a reward for coming up with a creative solution. Just don’t overdo it or you risk decreasing your motivation.
  3. Create Some Psychological Distance
    • People often suggest taking a break when you’ve hit a creative block. One experiment found that placing some psychological distance between yourself and the problem might also do the trick. Researchers found that when participants imagined a problem originated from a far location versus a close one, they solved more problems and came up with more creative solutions. The next time you face a difficult problem, try imagining that the issue is distant and disconnected from your current location.
  4. Surround Yourself with Inspiration
    • Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that surroundings play a role in the creative process. Stimulating environments can facilitate the creative thought process, so surrounding yourself with things you find inspiring and motivating can help. Create an office space that helps you feel inspired and energized. Seek out stimulating experiences and settings that can help trigger inventiveness.
  5. Create Restrictions
    • When trying to solve a problem, people often build on existing ideas to come up with the easiest solution. This often leads to a good outcome, but it can also lead to functional fixedness that makes it challenging to think of creative solutions. One way to overcome this is to place some restrictions on your thinking. This can actually lead to more creative solutions. The next time you are trying to solve a problem, try limiting the things you usually use to come up with a solution. You might find yourself coming up with new and innovative ideas that you might not have otherwise considered.
  6. Daydream
    • In today's high-tech, connected world, distraction is just a click away. Instead of filling every single idle moment with apps, games, emails or website visits, try letting yourself experience boredom. In one study, bored participants performed better on creativity tests than those who were elated, relaxed or distressed. In another study, researchers found that boredom gives people time to daydream, which then leads to greater creativity. Boredom encourages creative thinking because it sends a signal that the current situation or environment is lacking. Looking for new ideas and inspiration helps overcome that.
  7. Re-Conceptualize the Problem
    • One common trait creative people tend to share is that they typically re-conceptualize problems more often than less creative people do. Instead of continuing to throw yourself at the same mental wall, try taking a step back. Revisit the problem from the very beginning. Is there a different way to think about the problem? Can you look at the issue from a different angle? Giving yourself a chance to start over with a fresh point of view can foster creative thinking and lead to more novel solutions.
  8. Get Emotional
    • Researchers have long thought positive emotions were strongly linked to creativity, but one 2007 study found that both strong positive and negative emotional states were linked to creative thinking. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and put yourself in a bad mood just to gain some inspiration. But the next time you find yourself in a negative emotional state, try applying some of that energy towards solving a problem or accomplishing a task rather than just sitting around fuming.
  9. Surround Yourself with Blue
    • Color psychology suggests different colors can have varying effects on moods, emotions and behaviors. According to a 2009 study, the color blue tends to make people think more creatively. Why? According to researchers, the color blue encourages people to think outside the box. Since blue is heavily associated with nature, peace and tranquility, the color helps people feel safe to explore and be creative. The next time you are trying to find inspiration, try using the color blue to see if it might trigger some new ideas.
  10. Meditate
    • Research has also shown that certain types of meditation are linked to increased creative thinking. Meditation has long been used as a relaxation technique, but recent research demonstrates that the health benefits extend far beyond relaxation. One study found that using something known as open monitoring meditation, where individuals are receptive to any and all thoughts and sensations without focusing on any particular object or idea, can increase divergent thinking and the generation of new ideas.
Kendra Cherry

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