The showering of lukewarm water on the naked body has turned out to be a creativity trigger for humans.
I think that the thought of bathing after a day-long hard work may have been a very relaxing opportunity for Neanderthals. Perhaps in such a moment of solitude, he would have thought of use of fire for cooking food or about the use of wheel.
Bathing still serves as magic to well-evolved homo sapiens. But it requires inattentiveness.
Psychologists think of an alert mind as an uncreative mind.
72% People Experience Shower Magic
During a consumer survey in 2015, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman found that 72% of people have encountered new ideas in the shower.
And 14 percent of people take showers for generating creative insights. German sanitary fittings manufacturer Hansgrohe had commissioned it. Deputy CEO of the company, Richard Grohe summed up the findings of the survey in these words, “the sensation of the water’s spray combined with the tranquillity of the showering ritual may help free the brain and stimulate fresh thinking.”
Study was carried out on 4000 people aged 18 to 64 across eight different markets online (Brazil, China, France, Germany, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US). According to this survey, people spend an average of 70 minutes in the bathroom each day, and more members of the younger age groups (18–24 and 25–34) take shower for new ideas, fresh thinking, or problem-solving.
What Happens Inside the Mind When We Bath?
When we enter into a shower, a unique part of the brain activates itself. Psychologists call it default mode network (DMN) where a train of ideas collide in a non-associative manner with diverse ideas in our unconscious mind, thus new connections form.
To activate DMN you are required to focus on the inward world, cut off from the outside world, and likewise, you need to be free from demanding tasks doing introspection, thinking about the past or future.
“The mind is not idle in the absence of externally focused, goal-directed tasks — instead, the relative lapse in perceptual vigilance provides an opportunity to mentally wander far from the current physical context, maintaining just enough attention to engage automatic behaviors and to monitor the environment for interruptions, while indulging thoughts, fantasies, and memories about the social world and the psychological self.”
Psychologists conclude that this area is again related to varied forms of mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, autism, schizophrenia.
Some psychologists give credit to hormone dopamine. When dopamine is released, we feel creative. And during the shower, this hormone flows in an increased manner.
Harvard researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson credits everything to distraction. “a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution.’’ According to her theory, if you are stuck on a problem, an interruption can force an “incubation period.’’ Shower can serve as an incubation period for an idea.
Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist, turned writer tried to figure out the origin of inspiration in his bestselling book — Imagine. He detected a series of Eureka moments and concluded that a relaxed state of mind is vital to be creative.
“When our minds are at ease–when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain–we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we’re trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights.”
How Does a Shower Affect Our Brain?
Woody Allen stated in an interview with Esquire, “In the shower, with the hot water coming down, you’ve left the real world behind, and very frequently things open up for you. It’s the change of venue, the unblocking, the attempt to force the ideas that are crippling you when you’re trying to write.”
The sprinkling of water soothes your body muscles and relaxes your mind. It delivers you in a deeper state of consciousness.
You come up with a connection to two or more unrelated complex ideas or problems. You find an answer to an already well thought out and vexing question. You can re-locate your lost things. You get an insight into a random idea you were thinking about a fortnight before.
These discoveries and sparks serve us occasionally, but very few of us take notice of that.
The problem is when you sponge down the body; these sparks shake off too down the drain. Sometimes, you come out of it and struggle with what it was.
The shower is a convenience to be with ourselves, solitarily, out of the gaze of others, beyond the reach of outward distractions, with our memories, dilemmas, experiences, and it engages with our mind effortlessly. In the irregular flow of this thought process, you find yourself immersed. It seems this engagement reveals something to us cryptically.
Creativity Cannot Be Disciplined
Psychologists say that you cannot plan these spontaneous idea encounters. You cannot command your brain to be creative as people think. No amount of your push can serve you any idea worth recording if you are forcing yourself.
In reality, anxiety and concentration shut down other parts of our brain. Taking a break with routine also doesn’t provide that necessary space. But when you feel contended and solely with yourself, your mind starts wandering, and then it interacts with uncharted areas of the brain and make new connections.
When you do not have a specific task at hand, only then random insights appear. That’s why keeping a notebook near the shower or voice recorder does not work. The mind notices these tricks as pressure.
Optimizing Shower for Creative Inputs
If you wish to optimize your shower experience, you can not do much for that, except preparing the bed of conditions for a creative spark. And these conditions can be —
1Bathing alone. Keep others and everyone out of the bathroom where you are about to take a shower. Then DMN activates, and we forge an intimate bond with ourselves. We can turn our attention inward.
2No audio-visual thing nearby. Keep every device out, be it your smartphone, music device, newspaper, etc.
3Try to take shower in the evening when your mind is towards relaxation. Research shows that creativity peaks when your mind is least alert.
4Tease the idea or problem to yourself early. You should enter the shower, leaving all thoughts outside.
5You can keep Aquanotes, markers, or notepad-like things in the shower. But I don’t think that it will work.
This list is a note of advice for preparation before you open the faucet of your shower next time. But this can not be the guarantee for the creative spark you are waiting for.
Your creativity does not revolve around these formulae. It happens in odd moments.
About Author — Ajay Sharma is a multimedia professional. His interests vary between history of humanity, existence, personal histories and genealogies, man and his oddities-crime. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org