Creativity is Out Here!
There is a well-known saying about being creative and coming up with creative solutions: Think outside Box!
However, there is an irony associated with this call for creative thinking…Chances are you are reading this article while inside a box! The box I am referring to is the office, the building, the house, the room you are currently in. You get the picture.
Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors. Let me say that again from a different angle, only 7% of our LIVES are spent outside. How can that be when our dream vacations and bucket-list destinations are mostly outdoor locations?
We dream of being outside, yet for many, this stays a dream or only limited to vacations or weekends. Why?
We are creatures of habit.
We have been going to boxes called buildings to learn or do work since we started going to school. This habit is so ingrained we still use terms like ‘going to school,’ and ‘going to work’. Work is not where you go, it is what you do! Modifying our habits, or establishing new habits to get outside will be key accessing more creativity, productivity and well-being. This is a bold statement, I know. Nature is a powerful tool to unlocking those areas of work and life where we sometimes get stuck.
Office work needs a breath of fresh air
One key obstacle to creativity is we are being asked to be creative in an environment that doesn’t enable us to be at our best. Research shows that being inside, and the activities (or lack of activities) that we do inside, are detrimental to our health and well-being.
Being indoors means we breathe more recycled air. Poorer air quality leads to more illness. The lack of natural sunlight is linked to depression. Sitting for most of the day at work means we are more sedentary during our waking hours. Being sedentary is linked to higher likelihood of obesity.
How does well-being impact creativity? Are you more creative when you’re feeling ill, sad, or lethargic? Maybe? Some great songs and poems have been written out of being sad. However, for purposes of business, my bet is that people do their best work when they are inspired and healthy.
Give me a break (or at least my brain).
Another obstacle to creativity is the mental environment in which most of us are constantly immersed. Our minds are running constantly with all the demands of work, catching up with emails, juggling multiple projects and activities. Let’s not forget that our brain is a muscle, and when that processing muscle gets fatigued, the ability to think deeply, focus and come up with creative solutions is negatively impacted. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that processes critical thinking and problem solving. However, when the prefrontal cortex gets a break, the creative part of our brain is activated and allowed to get to work on new ideas and concepts that lead to innovation.
Research has shown that the prefrontal cortex is less active when people are out in a natural environment. A 2012 study performed by psychologists from the University of Utah and the University of Kansas that looked at the impact of nature on creativity found four days in nature helped participants improve their creativity test scores by 50 percent. It doesn't take four days, either: walking in a city park or any green space for as little as 25 minutes is enough to give your brain a rest and boost cognitive functioning, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit” - Aristotle
If you want to find ways to be more creative and inspired, nature is outside waiting for you. Make nature a habit by scheduling time before, during or after work to just be in nature. The simplest thing that you can do right now is to schedule nature breaks into your daily routine. It can be as close as your backyard, the green-space near your office or even a window with a view of nature. Taking daily nature breaks will have immediate and long-term benefits on how you perform at work and life. In fact, at your next opportunity, stand up, go to a window or outside, and take 5 minutes to let your senses experience the harmony of nature. For more ideas on how to integrate nature into your day to be more creative, productive, and healthy, visit Ozadi.net.
Would you like to learn more about how nature can impact your work creativity and productivity? If you are attending the 2019 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, come check out Ozadi at the following workshops on Bring Creativity into your Work, Company, and Life and Nature at Work for Productivity, Health, and Fulfillment. You will learn from experts in branding, advertising, biomimicry, and co-working regarding the impact of nature on work performance.
It’s time for the Nature of Work to be Working with Nature.
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Where do you go to get inspired and let the creative juices flow?