Are you getting your five a day?

Published on 28 Jul 2014

It’s possibly the best known of all government health messages. It’s a simple and motivating message to eat healthier; it’s easily remembered and is neither patronising nor preachy; it’s entirely general and somehow deeply personal.

There’s a version for the mind, too - The New Economics Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ (Thompson, Aked, Marks and Cordon, 2008).  

And what about creativity? Are there regular, practical steps you can take to help your creativity flourish? Well, here’s my personal ‘five a day’. They won’t work for everyone, but you’re welcome to try them – and to add to the list.  Recent research has suggested that we probably need to be aiming for more than five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, but that whatever your starting point, it’s always worth eating more (Oyebode, Gordon-Dseagu, Walker and Mindell, 2014). I’m sure it’s the same with creativity!

Make time! “I don’t have time to be creative!” Time isn’t the real issue though, is it? What I really mean is, I’m not giving creativity priority. So, I’ve committed myself to spending 15 minutes a day doing nothing but creating. I’ve only been doing it for a month but am already seeing a transformation in my creative production, not just in those short slots, but in all aspects of my life.

Write stuff down!  Ideas don’t always wait for a suitable time to pop into your head. The simplest way to capture your ideas is to carry a notebook and pencil (or the digital equivalent!) with you at all times. When an idea comes, I capture it as fully as I can. Then I close my notebook and get on with my day. The more ideas you record like this, the more ideas will come.

Give yourself permission!  Unless you actually invite creativity to come out and play, it won’t. If I’m not giving myself time to be creative or capturing my ideas, I’m sending myself the message that I don’t want my creativity to thrive.

Take a walk!  Any exercise is good for creativity, but it doesn’t have to be extreme. I try to take at least a short stroll every day – to the station, between offices, or sometimes (when it’s raining!) I just wander the office corridors. Recent research suggests that it’s the actual walking that makes the difference, not where you walk (Oppezzo and Schwartz, 2014).

Play! It’s through play that we learn through doing and accumulate knowledge. All sorts of creative connections are made when you’re playing that otherwise would never be made. And you can do it anywhere, anytime and in any setting. It doesn’t have to be a mission – it can just be a bit of a laugh.

What helps you to be creative? What’s your ‘creativity diet’ of choice?

References

Oppezzo, M. and Schwartz, D. L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21 April, 2014. Advance online publication. [Retrieved on 1 May from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf]

Oyebode, O., Gordon-Dseagu, V., Walker, A. and Mindell, J. S. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 31 March, 2014. Advance online publication.  [Retrieved on 1 May from http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/03/jech-2013-203500.short?g=w_jech_ahead_tab]

Thompson, S., Aked, J., Marks, N. and Cordon, C. (2008). Five Ways to Well-being: The Evidence. [Retrieved on 1 May 2014 from http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/entry/five-ways-to-well-being]

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