The same four walls of your bedroom. The same dusty laptop screen. The same ‘ding’ of your phone notifications.
It’s all the same.
The days when attending online classes from the comfort of your bed and having the new-found liberty to schedule tasks whenever your heart desires brought you a dopamine rush are long gone; the monotonous dread of another day stuck inside crept in without you knowing.
Routine is nice. Yet, sooner or later, the lack of refreshing stimuli that comes with a routine can leave us feeling extremely dull and uninspired. It is as if with each passing day, more and more creative juices flow out of our brains, leaving behind an empty shell of what we used to be.
Archimedes, a Greek Mathematician, is perhaps more famous to some for his shower Eureka moment than his academic achievements, albeit revolutionary. A sudden flash of an idea came upon him while in the bathtub. Upon his realisation on how to detect forged gold, he raced to the streets, while naked, screaming “Eureka! Eureka!”.
The principle of buoyancy came out of his Eureka moment, and so did the idea that inspiration comes when one is showering.
When we reach a stump, we often enter a generous block of time allotted for “brainstorming” or “figuring my life out” only to stare frustratedly into the oblivion of a blank word document for hours on end. More often than not, it may be because we’re simply trying too hard and overloading our brain with information to come up with a solution.
Hence, the rarity of solitude and relaxation in our busy lives is what makes the shower experience compelling. It is a moment of clarity, a clear path to solving challenges and incomprehensible puzzling situations. It offers us the chance to be distracted and forces us to take a break to disengage from fixating on the ineffective solutions. A burst of realisation away from the complex obsessed thoughts. According to the Business Insider, Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist, discovered through his research survey that 72% of people got their inspiration while taking a shower. It was also revealed that unlike the workplace, people disengage themselves from the complexities of the world in the bathroom, giving room for the brain to remain more focused on creativity and inspiration.
We’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when we take a shower. Since scrubbing off soap and standing under the faucet don’t require much thought, our brain flips to autopilot.
At this instant, our unconscious is freed from its usual mental restraints and off we go daydreaming, allowing our brains to engage in a thrilling game of free association. Our prefrontel cortex – the part of the brain which controls our decision-making and behaviour – relaxes; the “default mode network” (DMN) switches on, enabling us to “think” without any explicit goal of thinking in mind.
With your cortex loosened up and the DMN switched on, we make creative connections that our conscious mind would have otherwise dismissed.
On the other hand, when we force ourselves to sit at our desks and think hard about a problem, it deactivates our DMN and boosts our prefrontal cortex’s control. This has its advantages; we become more focused and have the discipline and self-control to put our phones down and meet our homework deadlines. Yet, we may also be dragged into a creative rut as entering a mode of deep focus makes us less susceptible to unconventional and creative ideas.
There is also value in discovering different mundane situations which work just as well in pulling us out from our creative slump because well, showers just aren’t always accessible. For me, that’s sharpening all the pencils in my pencil pouch and reorganising my stationery by colour and making my morning cup of tea. The half-conscious mode before I fall into deep slumber is also one where a lot of ideas come to me, be it ironic.
All in all, forcing creativity is counterproductive. Good ideas don’t “just come to you.” You have to make yourself available to receive them. So step away from that computer and have yourself a nice, relaxing soak!