Wouldn't it be great if psychologists found a simple exercise to boost our creativity?
Did that just sound like a rhetorical pitch?
Well, it was!
In recent years, researchers have taken a close look at the effects of meditation on creativity and the results have been promising.
All three of the journal articles I've cited for this post agree that open-monitoring meditation primes our minds for idea generation, which is a crucial part of the creative process according to expert Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman's recent article for Scientific American.
So let's all let out a collective sigh of relief, yeah? We can stop wringing our hands and waiting for the muses to fill our minds with novel and useful ideas. The science suggests that we can take an active role in inspiration and that this exercise can help!
I'm going to describe open-monitoring meditation, talk about why scientists think it works, then provide a guided audio meditation from an expert to get you going.
Let's get started.
What is Open-Monitoring Meditation?
Open-monitoring meditation is like a kind of attentive daydreaming, where the meditator allows his/her awareness to settle on whatever feelings, thoughts or sensations come across the mind’s eye. She doesn’t get attached to any one idea; she lets herself flow non-judgmentally from one thought to another. She simply sits quietly and notices where her mind travels. The practice generally lasts about 20 minutes and has been linked to a host of health/mood benefits.
So, this exercise already sounds like it would help right?
The Science Behind It.
The most relevant metric in these studies is the Alternate Use Task (AUT), which is a test Psychologists use “to objectively measure the generation of new ideas." Here's how it works: First the AUT presents an everyday Item, like a white handkerchief. Next, the participant attempts to generate as many alternative uses for the item as possible, like "waving it as a white flag" or "using it to play peek-a-boo." Lastly, the responses are counted and rated for their originality. It's like an on the spot idea generation improv and it's commonly used by creativity psychologists.
For the (multiple) studies I've cited, researchers recruited several hundred participants of different ages, sexes and levels of meditation. These people were put through surveys and tests (like the AUT) to determine their starting points. Then, the subjects were assigned either to a control group or to practice a style of meditation like focused-attention, love and kindness or open-monitoring. Lastly, participants retook the initial surveys and tasks to record changes in mood and performance.
What did the studies reveal?
I'm going to keep it pithy and fun here, but massive amounts of information was collected and there is one clear take away: Open-monitoring meditation provides a robust creativity boost and researchers found that prior meditative experience was unnecessary.
Wow: I think this ought to be overwhelmingly exciting for creative types looking to experiment with their method and improve their output.
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert EinsteinTweet It!
A Guided Meditation.
In full honesty, I used to think meditation was a bunch of hippie-dippie new-age poppycock. It was a dirty word for me and I never got serious about forming the habit.
But in recent years there's been an avalanche of studies and articles published on the benefits of these ancient practices. I think it's hard for any science-minded person to scoff at the genuine good meditation can do.
So if you're a creative type or just someone who wants to benefit from all the health/mood benefits meditation has to offer, sit and give the following audio recording a listen. Try it for at your leisure for a week or two. See if it helps you somehow.
You might find it tranquilizing, you may experience a boost in your creative output or you may find it totally boring and silly! Whatever the case may be, you experimented and made an effort at being open to new experiences (which is a top predictor of creative success).
This post originally appeared on Creativity Post.
Begin your day feeling grounded and inspired.
A free 30-day email series where we share the most impactful stories and ideas that have helped us on our journey to live a more meaningful life.
✌️ Free. Unsubscribe anytime.
“I’m in the midst of big life transitions at the moment, chasing book deals, relocating, taking risks, carving out a life that feels honest, so your emails have been a perfectly timed source of inspiration and reassurance.” Jo in London, Great Britain
"Love the emails! They are a great reset or what I would call mindful chiropractic adjustment to approaching the day. Thank you!" Laurie in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"I love the emails. They give me a new perspective and things to think about and apply in my life." Monica in Johannesburg, South Africa
"It's food for the soul and sets my spiritual compass in the right direction." Farahdiva Samsul in Assam, India
"Absolutely LOVE the daily emails. One of the only email subscriptions I read daily. Keep them coming!!" Adriana in New York, New York
"The emails are thought-provoking and uplifting. A little pause from the crazy happenings of modern life. A quick chance to reflect, smile, and think about a life lived mindfully." Pharan in Queensland, Australia
"I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mindfully Mailed series. Daily I await this little nugget of goodness to hit my inbox each day." Tambria in Shreveport, Louisiana
Welcome to Holstee
Our monthly membership helps conscious people (like you!) live a more meaningful life through actionable guide, inspiring art, thought-provoking content and a like-minded community.BECOME A MEMBER →
This article is part of our series on the theme of Creativity.EXPLORE Creativity →
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES →