Mindful Meditation is known for its ability to help reduce stress and anxiety, but did you know it can also help boost your creativity?
The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. General Mills is another company which reports improved innovation as a result of sitting in stillness and has meditation rooms available to their staff. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search Inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations. Executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.
According to a study done with 129 students at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, a mere 10 to 12 minutes of mindfulness meditation is enough to boost creativity. In this study, the participants were split into three groups and assigned a creative task: Generate as many business ideas as possible for using drones. Before the individual brainstorming began, one group participated in a 10-minute audio-guided mindfulness meditation, and a second group participated in a 10-minute fake meditation exercise (they were instructed to think freely by letting their minds wander). A third group started to brainstorm immediately. Each of the three groups generated roughly the same number of ideas, and the length of the descriptions of the ideas was similar. The main difference was that meditators came up with a much wider range of ideas. The meditators demonstrated a 22% wider range of ideas than the two non-meditating groups.
Danny Penman, the author of Mindfulness for Creativity, argues that mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practices enhance three essential skills necessary for creative problem solving. First, mindfulness switches on divergent thinking. In other words, meditation opens your mind to new ideas. Second, mindfulness practice improves attention and makes it easier to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas. And finally, mindfulness nurtures courage and resilience in the face of skepticism and setbacks, which is important because failure and setbacks are inextricably linked with any innovation process.
The next time you need a little help boosting your creative thought process, there are many guided mindfulness meditation exercises on-line, but it’s easy enough to do yourself by following these simple instructions:
- Find a place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position and set a timer.
- Gently close your eyes.
- Ask yourself what you are currently experiencing, and observe your feelings, sensations, and thoughts.
- Shift your attention to your body and spend a moment or two zooming in on the sensations in places that touch the chair or floor.
- Shift attention to your belly and observe your sensations. Focus on how it extends and falls with every breath.
- Observe your breathing some more without changing it.
- At some moment, your mind will naturally wander away.
- When you realize that your mind is no longer in the present, recognize it as a moment of awareness and shift your attention back to your breathing.
- Now focus on your whole body, observing your posture and face. When you are ready — or when the timer reminds you that you should get back to work — open your eyes.
- Let your creative thoughts flow.