The creative power of a simple shower: Deej Johnson on sparking more ideas
It’s said that 72% of people have their best ideas in the shower… And some scientists are now publishing their theories as to why! If you don’t need any convincing, though, here’s how you can make the most of your time in the steam.
The Night Before
First, keep in mind that a completely isolated, spontaneous spark is a rare thing. Help your brain out by giving real thought to some specific issues… Ideally, write down the name of a problem you’d like to solve, or a thing for which you’d like to have ideas, before you go to bed the night before a morning shower.
On the Day
Worst-case scenario, you can still give issues some thought shortly before you jump under the water jets. That way, by the time you head to the shower, you’ll have ‘primed’ your unconscious mind to be on the lookout for ideas. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show the importance of this priming.
Technology is amazing! To the astonishment of earlier generations, many of us can now digest news, music and TV shows as we go about our ablutions. It’s not at all uncommon for people to have some form of media on in the shower. If you want to have more ideas, though, switch off this tech.
Why? Because some scientists believe part of a shower’s power is that it facilitates sensory deprivation. John Kounios – Professor of Psychology at Drexel University – puts it this way: “You can’t see very much. There’s the white noise of the water. The water is warm, so you can’t feel the difference between your skin and the air”.
Kounios continues: “This sensory restriction is like an extended ‘brain blink’. You cut out the outside world and ideas bubble up into awareness.” In other words, Kounios believes showering is conducive to letting your mind wander just the right amount. In my opinion, that’s much harder do when you’re also trying to digest content on your gadgets and gizmos.
If there’s one serious drawback to having ideas in the shower, it’s this… Many people forget them long before they’ve towelled down, cleaned up and left the room! One solution to this is to have a waterproof notebook. Personally, I use one made by a company called Rite in the Rain.
Another solution is to have something similar mounted to the wall. Aqua Boat manufactures a fantastic waterproof pad, for example. This comes with suction pads that let you stick it to a tiled surface! It even has a sucker to store a pencil next to it.
Relax and Feel Good!
Most people already enjoy showers so this advice might seem redundant. It’s worth saying, though, that there’s a little-known way to give yourself a serotonin boost in the shower. Just aim the water at the point where your neck meets the base of your skull. Leave it spraying on there for a few seconds and you should find yourself almost melt with relaxation!
Why do so Many People Have Ideas in the Shower?
One theory is that showering simply improves our moods! And when our moods improve, activity increases in a particular part of the brain. Known as the anterior cingulate cortex, it’s responsible for – among other things – monitoring unconscious ideas. Simply put: when the anterior cingulate cortex is highly active, you’re more likely to have ideas “pop into your head”.
Who Says So?
The list of people offering anecdotal evidence to the creative value of a shower is endless. Off the top of my head, the Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin says he showers up to eight times a day to overcome writer’s block!
Then there’s Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Agatha Christie, various Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists, and a whole bunch of inventors… Shigeru Miyamoto: Donkey Kong and Mario Bros.; Benjamin Franklin: the lightning rod; Dean Kamen: Segway; Steve Jobs – founder of Apple, obviously; Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. The list goes on and on and on!
Finally, Professor John Kounios has done some interesting studies on shower ideation. We quoted his work earlier, but he’s also the co-author of a book on the subject. Check out The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain.
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