You’re in the shower or maybe waiting for the bus and eureka! – a golden idea pops into your head.
You’re able to solve that problem at work, understand something that’s been bugging you for months…or perhaps even the meaning of life. But what unlocks these moments of clarity?
Research shows you’re more likely to experience a creative epiphany when you’re doing something monotonous; think doing the dishes, exercising or showering.
This is because these routine behaviours require less thought, freeing up your unconscious to work on something else.
Scientifically speaking, this kind of daydreaming relaxes the prefrontal cortex—the brain’s command centre for behaviour and decision making.
It also switches on the rest of your brain’s ‘default mode network’ (DMN) clearing the pathways that connect different areas of your grey matter.
As your prefrontal cortex takes it easy and your DMN energises, your brain is able to make new, innovative connections that your conscious mind would have disregarded.
These aha! moments are trickier to achieve at work because thinking hard about a problem deactivates your DMN but boosts your prefrontal cortex’s control.
This is what tightens your focus and gives you the power to avoid all those distracting memes – but it also means your brain is more likely to censor creative ideas.
Switching to autopilot whilst you lather up in the shower might be exactly what you need to coax out your inner genius!