Working Out Mental Blocks: How Aerobic Exercise and Yoga Can Boost Creativity
By now you’ve likely developed a routine for dealing with mental blocks. Likely it’s something along the lines of grabbing some coffee, attempting to make a dent in your unanswered emails, quickly abandoning that pursuit to actually get some work done, and then desperately trying to convince yourself that the sudden urge to go work out isn’t a pitiful attempt to (quite literally) run from a mental block. Then when denial inevitably fails, you take solace that at least your method of procrastination is healthier than mindlessly surfing the internet. Well, according to neuropsychological research even more extensive than those unread emails, far from procrastination, aerobic exercise and yoga actually stimulate creative thinking. So while it probably won’t help shrink your inbox much, sprinting and stretching away, might be just the thing for working out creative blocks.
Generating Waves of creativity:
Exercise is known to alter brainwave patterns, generating a higher level of alpha brainwaves. These alpha waves become more prevalent in a state of wakeful relaxation, and are believed to boost creative insight. Yoga poses and meditation, particularly open monitoring meditation emphasizing the passive observation of your thoughts, are powerful methods of generating alpha waves through wakeful relaxation. And even though cardio training is a bit heavier on wakefulness aspect, the emphasis of cardiovascular exercise on repetition and breath control nonetheless put your mind in a restful state, manipulating your brainwaves and stimulating creativity.
Rewiring the brain with fitness:
Meditation and aerobic exercise are well-documented stimuli of neuroplasticity, a phenomenon crucial to creative thinking. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to physically remap its neural pathways, creating stronger connections between various concepts in the process. As your brain forms these new pathways, it rewires itself to new conclusions, enabling the creation of new ideas. Furthermore, as your brain’s neural highways are strengthened, so too are your memories, making it easier to access a reservoir of knowledge and experiences that inspires creativity. In a manner of speaking, physical fitness endows you with the tools to build a more creative brain.
Work Hard, Sleep Hard:
While it’s always difficult to doubt good ‘ole doctor WebMD, when one of the most reoccurring recommendations for resting better, is working harder, it starts to get a bit challenging not to believe that it’s downright infallible. Although aerobic exercise and yoga have both become common recommendations from doctors and baristas alike for getting a better night’s sleep, that added restfulness is useful for far more than simply saving your mind, and your wallet, from coffee addiction. As you sleep, your mind retraces the day’s experiences in a highly relaxed state of mind, enacting a kind of subconscious reflection that breeds insight. By enabling you to rest more peacefully, exercise actually helps you “sleep on” tough decisions, and formulate more creative approaches to handling them.
Creativity, brought to you by happiness:
Despite no shortage of pharmaceuticals to choose from, physical fitness remains one of the most popular stress relief methods. Granted, the appeal of stress mitigation that doesn’t involve selling a kidney to afford medication may be a major incentive, but what keeps people running, cycling and stretching back for more, is the profound effect that physical fitness has on happiness. From flooding us with endorphins and serotonin, to simply bringing a sense of clarity, exercise can make us feel happier, a crucial component to creativity if there ever was one. But beyond stimulating insight, taking a more active approach to beating a mental block ensures that creative thinking stays a fun experience, as it should be, rather than a tedious task.
Ian Graber-Stiehl is an authority on utilizing freelance writing and analysis, as well as copious quantities of coffee, as a means to justify trail running as “story development.” This reclusive creature can found at either email@example.com or within the Illinois woodlands.