Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Why does Relaxation lead to Creativity and Performance?

A whole heap of things have come together in my thoughts over the last 24hrs. They are primarily covered by the following:

  • Why does relaxing lead to more creative thinking?
  • Why does not thinking about an activity and sometimes just going with the gut or the flow often lead to better performance?

I started to think about these things because of the counter-intuitive way in which we sometimes work. In one of my line reports today I saw (what felt like) a classic case of ‘over-thinking’. I could virtually feel the heat coming from their brain….

I’ve also always had this thing about walking fast. Weird I know. But it’s about relaxing into something; try it. The next time you’re rushing somewhere, and trying to walk fast to get there, try and get awareness of how tense your legs and lower body are. Then shift what you’re doing; try instead to relax into your stride. Don’t try; just relax the muscles and watch what happens. You go faster. I don’t know whether it’s the same with running and breathing, but the only times I ever seem to stich now on a long run is when I suddenly focus on the pattern of my breathing. When left alone, my body unconsciously runs its routine.

Considering everything, I wonder whether we’re structured to operate in different ways at different times; probably mainly through evolution? Why would we have to think about much when we were running away from a sabre toothed tiger (‘Oh, look – a tree. Must climb.’)

… and why would we be wired to trigger creativity through the direct application of thought? Should creativity logically be triggered by a need to solve a problem or complete an action. Definitiely one to explore further when I ever get back to looping round to some of these thoughts again…… 

Surrounding reading:

Marcosa Vintage produces a great list of ways to trigger creativity

These College Class Notes give a nice overview on the brain, nervous system and behaviour

Javierh’s post on Anxiety provides an amazing contrast

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4 thoughts on “Why does Relaxation lead to Creativity and Performance?

  1. Thanks for linking my blog to your post…

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your intersting and insightful post. From my experience in applying the SIT method (AKA Systematic Inventive Thinking), I’ve learnt that in many occasions constraints actually enhance creativity. A problem with a strict set of barriers yields more concrete solutions. The opposite is also true: too much creative freedom might yield unfocused ideas. However, I do agree that mental relaxation is essential for thinking clearly. But don’t confuse relaxation with a lack of structure.
    To read more about SIT’s approach to innovation, visit our blog at http://www.sitsite.com/blog

  3. Relaxation not always leads to creativity. Not “consciously thinking” on the other hand may lead to it. It is related to how the brain works. When you are trying to find a solution or come up with an idea, you have both your conscious and your unconscious working on it. In my experience most of the time when they are both working at the same time, the conscious takes the lead. Now (at least for some of us) the unconscious is the one with more “information”.

    For example I do have a terrible, TERRIBLE memory. I read a lot and still I remember very little… consciously. But the info is kept somewhere, as we say “in the back of my head”. So a lot of times when I decide to “stop thinking” and I go for a shower or any other “non thinking activity” the solution I was looking for magically appears. But is not magic, it was my unconsciuos, that was still working on the problem, made its own connections with information stored there and solve the problem.

    Also, it has to do with personalities. Some personalities are instantly blocked under pressure, some do need the pressure to unblock the power of their brain to their full potential.

    I taught creativity (applied to Advertising) for many years and while you can find some patterns and tecniques that can help to foster creativity, sadly there are no rules that you can apply to all individuals, mostly because each psyche is different and therefore the triggers may change from person to person.

    Having said so, if you give individuals a great number of techniques and methods and you encourage them to look for some insight about their own process, that will help them to find their own triggers.

  4. Many thanks Sandra. The point you make about the person to person differences was something I started thinking about here too: https://justseventhings.com/2008/06/17/61/

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