Do you remember those magical times in your childhood when you could lose yourself in your imagination? You could become anything and anyone, and life was full of infinite possibilities and exciting potential. Logic didn’t get in the way, blocking your sense of freedom and joy. And if life was miserable, you could escape from it all through the creative, imaginative world you made for yourself.
It’s no accident that as children we practice all sorts of situations and personas, trying them on for size and preparing ourselves in a safe and harmless way for whatever life might have in store for us. And that free-thinking, creative imagination is more than just a trial run at real life. It’s an invaluable tool when it comes to the resilience and creativity needed to solve life’s problems as they arise, and it’s a huge aid in remaining positive and avoiding or combating depression and negative patterns of thought.
But as we become adults, most of us let “reality” put us in straight-jackets. We let our thinking get into a rut, and allow our beliefs to become fixed and inflexible. If we’re lucky, we’ll find some kind of outlet, through our work or hobbies that will let us flex our creative muscles. But for many of us, those muscles are allowed to become stiff and unused, which in turn leaves us feeling stale and quite possibly bored with our humdrum existence.
So why not decide, today, to try to reawaken that creativity? It’s time to dust it off, stretch those wings, and access the light-hearted joy that comes from remembering that anything’s possible. The tips below can help to re-ignite your creative thinking, or can be consciously used to try to help you come up with new and different solutions to problems you may be “stuck” in. They’re all designed to get your creative unconscious mind firing, to help you think a little differently and have some fun. So take your pick, or if you’re feeling bold, why not try them all, and see how this rediscovered, creative “you” feels!
1. Allocate one day each week for a month as “taste something new” day, and commit to trying something you’ve never eaten before. It could be as simple as buying and tasting a new kind of fruit, or if you enjoy cooking, seek out new recipes you’d like to try. Or try out that new restaurant that just opened. Whether you like what you try or not doesn’t matter. Simply opening yourself up to new experiences helps you to feel less in a rut.
2. Think of a person you really admire. Someone you think is creative, exciting, strong and positive. They should have many attributes you aspire to. They can be a real person or a fictional character. Jot down on a piece of paper what it is that you admire so much about this person. In what ways do you wish you were like them? Now think of a problem you have, or a situation you’re not sure how to handle, and think to yourself, “If I were that person, with the resources I have available, what would I do about this?”
3. Take a familiar photograph, painting or image of any kind and turn it upside down. Spend a few minutes studying it from this new perspective. What details, shapes, patterns or thoughts do you notice that you never noticed before?
4. Think of a traditional fairy tale that you heard as a child, a story that you’re so familiar with that you know it thoroughly. Now pick either the antagonist (the “baddie”) or one of the minor characters (e.g. one of the seven dwarves), and think about or preferably write down how the same story might look from that character’s point of view. You might even want to change the ending of the story completely so your new protagonist is the one the wins out in the end, or just take that character and make a whole new story focussing on them… let your imagination run riot!
5. Take a problem or situation you have to think about, and imagine you are a child, about 6 years old. Children’s thinking can be refreshingly straightforward. What would a child say about this problem? Try to get into the simple, “why not?” frame of mind of a young child. We often overlook obvious, simple solutions and over-complicate our thinking.
6. Give something creative a go. When was the last time you drew something? Painted? Danced? Sang? Played an instrument? Acted? Made something from modelling clay? Carved something in wood? Knitted, embroidered or sewed? Took artistic photographs? Sign up to some evening classes, or get some good books out of the library and allocate an hour or two of your time once a week to rediscovering some creative pursuits.
7. Do you meditate? Regular meditation can be surprisingly effective in relaxing us and getting both halves of our brain (the creative and the logical parts) working in harmony with each other. Perhaps you’ve often thought about meditating but don’t think you’ve got the time? What if I said that just 5 minutes a day is all you need to get started? You can begin with a classic awareness meditation. Just close your eyes, and begin to notice your breathing. Notice how the air when you breathe in is cool and dry at the back of your nose and throat, but when you breathe out it’s warm and soft. Just continue to focus on your breath coming in and out, until you begin to feel yourself relax a little. Then just spend a few minutes noticing where your awareness takes you. You should feel calm and relaxed after just a few minutes of this, and doing this exercise regularly simply oils the wheels of your relaxed, creative mind, keeping it ready for use
8. Pick an image which includes people or a landscape. Look closely at the details in the image. Then imagine stepping into the image and exploring it. Who does your imagination decide these people are? Why are they doing what they’re doing? What are they thinking? Where does that path lead to? What is on the other side of that gate, door, river, etc. Allow yourself to roam free inside that photograph or image, and see what your unconscious comes up with.
9. Creative visualisation, a form of self hypnosis, can be used to tap in to your inner creativity. Get yourself really relaxed, then imagine yourself in a beautiful, natural place… exactly where is entirely up to you and your creative unconscious. Use all your senses to really feel yourself there. Somewhere in this place is a buried chest. Enjoy exploring your inner landscape until you find the buried chest. Inside the chest will be a gift, which symbolises a solution or an idea for the problem you set yourself (writers can use this to overcome a difficulty with plotting). Sit down and examine the gift in great detail, before coming back to the room, opening your eyes, then writing down all the ideas that come to you about what this gift could symbolise.
10. Try silence… the power of silence is very profound. We often run away from silence because in silence we only have our own thoughts for company, which can sometimes be quite a frightening prospect! But silence creates the space for truly creative thinking. Try sitting somewhere quiet – as quiet as possible – with no access to phones, tv, books, music or any other form of stimulus or distraction. Set a timer for one hour, and try to remain in silence with just your own thoughts for the full hour. If you haven’t done this before, it’s quite a challenge! At the end of the hour, grab a pen and paper and write down any significant thoughts that came up during that hour, or even just your thoughts on spending an hour in silence!
So there you go – plenty of ways to make space for the amazing, creative thoughts we can all have if we allow ourselves. Enjoy!
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