What’s with the shower and good ideas?

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Has it happened to you when you are looking for a solution to a complex problem for days, and suddenly a clear answer magically pops up in your shampoo laden head, mid-shower? You feel ecstatic and wish you had a pencil and paper near you because you are somewhat scared you might forget it. It happens to many of us most of the time, and guess what? There is a reason (scientific) behind this.

A similar brain wave also occurs when I’m about to fall asleep. I was researching a lot for a website name for my new blog and even topics to write for one of my other blogs, and boom! It was as if a swarm of ideas attacked me. I could not sleep but didn’t want to wake up, lest I disturb my kids sleeping nearby in my excitement. So, I just opened notepad on my phone and typed nearly 50+ awesome blog post ideas and several relevant website names that I hadn’t thought of before that poured out. The thoughts and ideas that flowed acted as if they were finally set free.

I am in every other writer group these days. I love to chime in when someone asks for an alternate phrase for a word. Or a quick tip to overcome writer’s block. And sometimes I want answers to questions for which I need immediate answers because I can’t stop thinking about them. Or want to rant about myself and my writing. I noticed several authors, bloggers, copywriters, were saying the same thing. Their best idea came to them when they were least expecting it. And guess what? The shower and bedtime are the top two places where it strikes. 😊 So, the curious me decided to do a little research, and here’s my revelation.

Why does it happen?

During times when the mind is relaxed, distracted, and in peaceful solitude, the body releases hormones like endorphin(feel-good), dopamine(stress-reliving), and serotonin(which influences your mood, brainpower). Then the mind reaches a state called the “Default mode network,” where the brain is in a wakeful rest state. That’s when our thoughts and ideas get some baking time and the answers show up when they are ready.

‘That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,’ says Joydeep Bhattacharya, who leads the Departmental Research Group of Cognitive and Neuroscience at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Some more things you can do every day to trigger those hormones and get that idea-rush are

  • Get some sunshine.
  • Have a hearty good laugh.
  • Eat your favorite soul food.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • A good massage.
  • Few minutes of mindful meditation.

John Kounios, a psychologist who studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia, quotes similarly — “You become less aware of your environment and more aware of your internal thoughts,”

Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, an American neurologist from MIT, reasons: “When you’re in the library beating your head against the wall about some problem, not getting anywhere, first of all, go outside and exercise for an hour, instead of pounding your head against the wall.”

She elaborates, “Like how bad environment is not good for biodiversity, dangerous environments and fear reduce creativity.”

She describes that the creative part of the brain spreads across three regions. She calls it the brain’s three-factor anatomical model, viz., frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and the limbic system. It’s different from the previously known hemispherical model where the left side is the analytical part, and the right side, the creative part, and each individual has a dominant side that shows up in their behavior.

Creativity boosting factors.| Alice Flaherty

It is also intriguing to note her fight with “hypergraphia” after losing her newborn twins right after birth. Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write or draw all the time. Once she got cured, she wrote a book about her findings - The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain”. She mentioned that Hypergraphia left her writing everywhere. If she could not find a paper, she even wrote on toilet tissue rolls or her hands.

I am pointing this because even though she wrote as she was driven by a mad urge to write, she discovered some valuable ideas in those writings. She admits it helped her write one of her books. Even numerous best selling authors hated their initial pieces of content. If you feel your writing is cringeworthy, there is still hope. You just get better by practicing it.

So keep those words flowing.

To habitualize creative writing,

  • Write every day as a task.
    Consistent writing is one of the turn-key solutions for a creative personality to emerge. Writing every day will definitely improve your writing.
  • Take a break or get distracted doing other mundane activities. This gives the subconscious to sink in the data overload. Processing and sorting of data happen, and a solution will eventually surface. The activities that do not need your brain to function. Be it doing the dishes, a shower, working out, laundry.
  • Bounce off ideas with creatives. It doesn’t matter if the other is from the same niche or different. It helps to bring clarity, perspective, and new angles you hadn’t thought of before.
  • A place in your space to write, reflect, or stare at the ceiling corner. A safe zone free from fear, pressure, and anxiety.
Photo by Blaz Erzetic on Unsplash

You might have heard about the ancient Greek scholar, inventor, physicist, and mathematician Archimedes. His story goes — As stepped into the bathtub, the water level rose. He got a brain-spark moment, he discovered the volume of the increased water level must be equal to the weight of his immersed body. Overwhelmed he jumped out of his bathtub and ran in the streets naked, shouting Eureka! Eureka! (I have found it!). He went on to create what we now call the Archimedes Principle.


So there, you’ve got historical proof, scientific proof, and also experiential proof that great ideas do occur in the shower.
I know a few author friends who keep a pencil and a paper pad clipped near the shower place to capture the free-flowing creativity. And if you’re a bit fancy, you could try Aqua notes, a waterproof paper/pencil set wall mountable with suction cups. I found their tagline really interesting and fun “ No more great ideas down the drain! “.

Wonder where I got the idea to write this article?