A new spring heralds not just the return of sunshine and green, growing things, but also a fresh start. The season of renewal, spring remains a chance early in the year to wipe the slate clean and bring in a fresh focus.
Here are 7 ways to refresh your creativity this spring:
1. Physical Fitness. An exercised body is a more creative one. It’ll come as no shock that you perform better at your day job when you’re at your best physically and mentally. Physical fitness help you not only prime your body for work, especially if you’re a desk jockey, but benefits your emotional and mental state too by busting stress and reducing anxiety. Intense aerobic exercise is well known for helping creative thinking and boosting cognitive gymnastics; the resulting physical and emotional release helps maintain focus for hours afterwards. Even your eyes can use a workout! Moving your eyes back and forth, like when you scan the horizon, may boost creative thinking by stimulating both sides of your brain.
2. Spring cleaning. Can’t think straight? Declutter your mind by decluttering your space. We get it: sometimes having a messy desk is part of the creative process. And when things are gelling, there’s no sense wasting time just to clean up. But when the mess, whether it’s takeout containers from last week or mock-ups from old projects, isn’t serving any purpose other than being a big distraction, it’s time to clean house. But it could signal time for a bigger change. Take a picture of your workstation or studio space and be brutally honest about whether it’s still helping you get shit done. If not, look online for desk envy (aka inspiration).
3. Get Outside. It’s well known that working outside in nature reduces stress. For most of us, there’s nothing natural about our workstations and no, the dead plant doesn’t count. If you can swing it, grab your laptop and head to to the backyard or a coffee shop patio. If not, enjoy some green space by eating your lunch outdoors. The breeze, the sky and the birds may all be distractions, but good ones as they benefit cognitive function rather than impede it. Host walking meetings in the park or on a path through the woods. Gain big benefits from outdoor activities, like walking or running, where you can zone out a bit. That’s the idea generation zone and it’s a good place to visit.
4. Something New. Nothing refreshes brain cells like learning. Take a class or start a hobby. Writing, drawing, filmmaking or accounting—anything to get your brain working on problems you don’t encounter very often. Creating something by hand is like giving your creativity a shot of espresso, so makers get extra points. When we’re young, we get a rush of energy (and anxiety!) by constantly facing new challenges. As an adult, bring back those endorphins by kicking your fear of failure in the cojones—it’s a great way to explore new ideas and find new inspiration.
5. Volunteer. Scot Kaufman, in Wired to Create, writes that “ ‘openness to experience’ is the number one thing to cultivate for both personal meaningful creativity and world changing creativity”. A strong society starts locally, so find organizations close to home or work. Whether you focus on environmental issues, homelessness, immigration or women’s rights, the bonus comes not just from doing good for others but also from becoming more innovative. As a volunteer, you’ll be exposed to all sorts of people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. That kind of diversity amplifies and encourages creativity, decision making, problem solving, and adaptability.
6. Be Mindful. Rather than the mostly physical labor of the past, 70% of what we accomplish today we do so with our brains. And like our bodies, sometimes these powerful organs need a respite from the cacophony of modern life—the constant stimulation—in order to keep in good working order. A daily mindfulness practice can be that respite. Meditation has many studied benefits, like an improvement in focus and patience, insight and perspective, all of which may add up to a boost of your creative powers over time. It’s not an unexpected side effect: meditation is often practiced alone and solitude itself can be a big boon for a creative mind.
7. Set Goals. New Years’ doesn’t have the only claim on resolutions. We forget about most of those by mid February anyway. Instead experts believe that the secret to getting things done is to pick real, attainable, measurable goals in the first place and aim to knock them out in smaller blocks of time. There’s so many methods of staying organized, from paper planners, like BulletJournal or Ink&Volt to apps like Workflowy or TeuxDeux. More frequent goals make us more accountable, productive and honest. At the end of each month or season, take another look at your goals, especially the ones where you never make any progress. Maybe you’ll realize they aren’t important after all. (That's a pretty creative solution!)