If there’s one thing we can come together on as humans it’s that we have our best ideas in the shower, which is probably (definitely) why they make waterproof notebooks and pens specifically for shower use. Thanks to new research we have some answers as to why the shower can be so thought-provoking.
A 2012 study found that when we perform an undemanding task our brains just kind of do their own thing and wander off. So under a new study co-led by Dr. Zac Irving, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, participants were asked to come up with new uses for either a brick or a paperclip. Participants were first split into two groups and each group was asked to watch a different three-minute video. The first video was “boring”, while the second one was considered “moderately engaging”. After watching the video participants were asked to list their alternative uses for either the brick or paperclip, then they were asked how much their minds wandered during the video. The results? Participants came up with more uses for their object during the “moderately engaging” video versus the “boring” video. The verdict being that mind wandering leads to more creative ideas, but only during moderately engaging activity. (source)
Leo Widrich of the Buffer blog breaks down when our brains give us the best ideas:
- We get the best ideas when a lot of dopamine is being released in our brains, and activities that tend to do this include exercising, listening to music, and, you guessed it, taking a warm shower.
- Our brains also give us great ideas when we’re feeling relaxed because we’re more likely to turn our attention inward and make an insightful connection. And as crazy as it sounds, this means that being drunk and sleeping are great for creativity.
- And last but not least, never underestimate the power of distraction. Distractions give our brains a break, which allows our subconscious to work on a problem more creatively.
What do you get when you combine a dopamine high with a relaxed state and a distraction? A shower! Okay, not necessarily, but you see how it fits the criteria for creative thinking.
Has any good ever come from shower thoughts? Only double-digit number-one hits, four recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, the first self-made female millionaire, a seven-year-old patent holder, and authors like Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and writer Dayton Trumbo.