Having trouble trying to generate the next big idea? Are you facing writer’s block or some other form of stifled creativity? Sometimes the answer isn’t to just force an idea out of your mind. Instead, you might want to try sitting back, relaxing, and letting your mind wander.
Yes, you heard that correctly. If you are in need of a new idea, try daydreaming.
When you are under pressure to come up with a new and radical idea, daydreaming might obviously seem like a waste of time. However, daydreaming and letting your mind wander does have its tangible benefits.
In a study from UC Santa Barbara which was published in Psychological Science, researchers found a solid correlation between creativity and creative problem solving. Participants were asked to finish an “unusual use task” wherein they had to come up with as many different ways to utilize an object as they could.
Afterward, the participants were then assigned to one of four things before attempting to do the unusual-use task again: 1) Complete a more intense task; 2) complete an easy task; 3) take a 12-minute rest break; 4) don’t take a break.
Surprisingly, the group that performed best were the ones who were assigned to complete the easy task. Many participants reported that they were daydreaming while performing the easy task. Researchers believe that this daydreaming helped unlock their creativity.
“These data suggest that engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving,” researchers wrote.
Why in the world would daydreaming help the brain come up with creative solutions? The answer is something known as “unconscious thought.” Even when you are not actively working to solve a problem, it often still remains in the back of your mind. Your brain is still thinking about the problem, but in a much more subtle way.
This allows your brain to generate unconventional and unusual solutions. For example, you might daydream about hypothetical “what-if” scenarios and your brain may make several unconventional free-range associations between two seemingly indirect objects.
When you daydream, your mind is allowed to think in ways it normally would not, because it is free of restrictions and inhibitions, and it can generate completely new and out-of-the-box ideas.
In addition, daydreaming works so well because it gives the mind a chance to rest. When you are working on an intense and engaging task, it is easy for your mind to become exhausted, which makes it more difficult to formulate new ideas.
When you are daydreaming, the mind is relaxed and has an easier time thinking however it wants to think.
Innovative solutions are, by definition, unconventional and un-ordinary. It stands to reason that generating an innovative solution often requires an innovative problem-solving method. Diane Barth, a licensed psychotherapist, speaks about how to accomplish this in her book: Daydreaming: Unlock the Creative Power of Your Mind.