As we navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives, our capacity to be creative is essential to reimagining our way forward. This is the second in our series of blogs exploring simple and surprising doorways into greater creativity.

One easy doorway to walk through is any one that will get you outside. How do you feel when you’re out in nature? Perhaps you’re an avid hiker or like to camp or walk the dog. You soak up the fresh air and move your body, noticing the colors, sounds and scents. This important shift from analytical thinking to direct awareness of your senses, helps the brain to quieten. A relaxed brain state, not an excited one, is the first essential ingredient to insight and creativity.

Evidence shows that being in nature has a profound, positive impact on our brain. It helps us reduce anxiety and stress by disrupting rumination, reduces stress hormone secretion and even shifts up the physiological brain circuitry we are using.  It’s a bit like shifting gears in a car – from Drive…to Neutral. Paint colors to mimic blue sky and green leaves used by office design experts to simulate nature, increase creativity in the workplace. Our brains respond positively to nature, however we can experience it!

Such a shift in brain state happens to be an excellent and essential precursor to creativity.

When the area of our brain involved in complex cognitive behavior and decision-making (the prefrontal cortex) quietens – let’s say because you’ve left the office to take a walk in the park – your brain’s default mode network kicks in. This circuitry activates whenever you’re not focused on a task or problem. In this effortless and pleasant default mode, our minds automatically shift into reflection on deeply stored emotions and ideas about ourselves and others. This produces a slower alpha wave effect in our brain, which scientists have found precedes the sudden flash of insight. This highly imaginative state helps creative ideas or new solutions to emerge.

Studies suggest having plants around you, or a view or picture of nature from your office, can also be soothing and inspiring, and help shift you into a more creative brain state.

The big take away? After a busy day of intense analytical focus, or when you have a big problem to solve – get out for a walk. The answers you need may just be right outside your door. Side effects? Be prepared to feel better, experience awe, have bursts of creativity and a renewed sense of connection with yourself and others!