The Brain Exercise That Boosts Creativity
Many corporations use meditation to help employees bring new ideas to the table--Shell Oil, Google, General Mills to name a few. I think it's also important for entrepreneurs to make meditation part of their daily routine.
Since I built time for meditation into my workweek, my capacity to shape the glimmer of an idea into a fully developed proposal has both expanded and become more efficient. My increased productivity speaks for itself about the benefits of meditation, and science backs up my experience. Researchers have found that people who meditate 30 minutes a day for eight weeks have improved focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility. Meditation triggers high-frequency brain waves associated with attention and perception: it feeds the wellspring of human creativity.
Give meditation a try to get your creative juices flowing. Here's how to start.
Find a meditation technique that works for you.
There are many ways to meditate. To start: try sitting mediation. Whether you sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, make sure that your spine is upright with head up, chin straight ahead. Count your breaths, an ancient meditation practice. On your out-breath, silently count one, then two on the in-breath, up to four, then return to one. If your thoughts begin to stray, or you find yourself counting beyond four, return to one.
Keep your eyes open; closing your eyes can lead you to drift away on certain thoughts. Stare at the flame of a candlelight if that helps, or a picture of a pleasant landscape. Repeating a simple chant (perhaps the ubiquitous Om) also helps keep your mind clear and focused.
Begin by meditating 10 or 15 minutes two or more times per week. Gradually build up to 30-minute session over several weeks. You can get coaching help too. Try using the free app Insight Connect. Insight Connect provides users with guided meditation sessions that last as long as you choose.
I put meditation to work by scheduling a consistent time--no calls, no appointments, no interruptions ever during this 30-minute period in my office (and also at home) when I focus on my breathing and let go of all other thoughts. It takes practices and discipline, but your capacity to let go increases each time you meditate.
Focus on de-stressing.
Meditation strengthens cognitive control. The ability to concentrate is enhanced when meditation quiets other brain functions. After one of my 30-minute meditation sessions I find that I have a burst of creative and associative energy--I listen more acutely to my colleagues and am better able to synthesize disparate ideas into an action plan.
The spark of creativity is ignited when we are able to get out of our own way by letting go of preconceived notions, inward distractions of day-to-day worries, habitual associations. Creativity, in other words, stems from the state of mind induced by meditation.
Practice meditating daily.
If you exercise your brain this way you can make it stronger and more innovative than you were yesterday. Thirty minutes of "mindfulness" at the office as a substitute for outmoded brainstorming sessions can make us all stop and think.
The hows of meditation have been around for millennia. They are simple to learn, and, although they require consistent practice, they will return increasing rewards as you build them into your weekly or even daily routine.
DEBRA KAYE | Columnist | partner, Lucule
Debra Kaye is a Partner at the innovation consultancy Lucule and a former CEO of TBWAItaly. Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections that Lead to Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, was The Washington Post's Leadership Book of the Week. A frequent commentator on American Public Radio's "Marketplace," she also writes for Fast Company and is a sought after speaker at venues such as SXSW.