Sweating Your Way to Creativity


 Creativity: The ability to bring together disparate ideas in new and useful combinations.

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You like?  I read it in a review of Christopher Bergland’s The Athlete’s Way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss in Psychology Today.  He makes good points about the benefit of ‘sweat equity’ (ouch the pun!) in the creative process.

Albert Einstein said of the theory of relativity, “I thought of it while riding my bicycle.” Anyone who exercises regularly knows that your thinking process changes when you are walking, jogging, biking, swimming, riding the elliptical trainer, etc. New ideas tend to bubble up and crystallize when you are inside the aerobic zone. You are able to connect the dots and problem solve with a cognitive flexibility that you don’t have when you are sitting at your desk. This is a universal phenomenon, but one that neuroscientists are just beginning to understand.

Aerobic exercise clears the cobwebs from your mind and gives you access to insights that are out of reach when you are sedentary. On the complete flip side, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (when we are dreaming) is probably the most creative state of mind we experience daily. Keith Richards came up with the song ‘Satisfaction‘ in his sleep. There are thousands of anecdotes of creative greats having eureka moments when they dream. Each of us knows from first-hand experience how our imagination streams unrelated ideas together when we dream. Regular exercise and sleeping well go hand-in-hand. Regular exercise allows you to sleep deeper and dream better. The more regularly you exercise, the better you will sleep and the more of a creative powerhouse you will become.

I can verify his statements, countless new combinations of ideas occur when I’m bike riding, hiking, even walking.  I also find the morning shower a haven for new thinking too, do you?

I like his definition of creativity – and am going to start using it.  Makes sense.

Marci Segal, MS, Creativity and Change Leadership: Freeing leaders’ thinking so they can create new futures.