Everyone has those moments when they’re looking at something they’re painting, drawing, or making and feeling completely stuck. So did you know that a study has found that walking can make you more creative? Read on to find out more.
Have you read my blog post on 14 Ways To Find Creative Inspiration? If you have, you’ll know that one of the ways I suggest to kickstart your creativity is to take a walk.
Interestingly enough, when I wrote this post I hadn’t come across the study that I’m going to talk about today. I just knew that going for a walk seemed to get the ideas moving again when I’m stuck creatively. I didn’t know why or how — I just knew that it worked.
I’m not the only one who found this; the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. And besides Nietzsche, others to have made the most of the creative power of walking are Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs.
It seems to me almost like creativity is a thing that’s carried in the blood, and the increased circulation from a walk or some other exercise helps to get the creativity flowing too! (Don’t worry — I’ll be getting to the actual facts of the study and away from my strange imagery very soon!)
Now, I can’t remember why or how I discovered this study, but when I did it was like something just clicked into place. It wasn’t just coincidence that my creativity seemed enhanced when I was walking.
The study by researchers at Stanford University shows that a person’s capacity to think creatively increases by up to 60% whilst they are walking. The effects also last for a short while afterwards too.
In the study, groups of people walked both outside and on a treadmill indoors. Both groups had a much higher creative output than those who were sitting in the same locations. So you could go for a walk around the block, or just pace around your living room. It doesn’t matter where the walking is done.
It’s the actual act of walking that causes the increase in creativity. Obviously, being outdoors has its own benefits, and you’d probably prefer to be walking through some lovely countryside or on a beach. But taking a walk around your local streets would be just as beneficial. (It was suggested in the study, however, that it might be wise to walk in a location that has as few distractions as possible, just to maximise the positive effects.)
The study found that general brainstorming sessions may well be more effective when carried out on foot. But if you are trying to figure out the specific answer to a particular problem or question, walking probably won’t help. The creative process of generating ideas or broader concepts is helped by walking. The same can’t be said for focused thinking, however.
The exact reason why walking helps to make you more creative isn’t quite clear, but the researchers are confident that the results from this study will no doubt lead to more work on the subject. It’s long been known that exercise has positive effects on brain processes, such as helping to maintain memory. And besides the mental benefits, exercise is obviously vital for a healthy body.
If we’re honest, probably very few of us move as much or as often as we should do. Make the most of your creative block and use it as an opportunity to go for a walk. A boost in creativity is just one of the positives.
Remember this next time you’re stuck and see what happens!