I just returned from a month long adventure in Italy with my husband and son. I needed a break, and a few days away simply wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to go somewhere truly different, get in touch with the anxiety and insecurity that goes with being in a new place, and reap the rewards of the wonder that our trip was sure to inspire.
Taking a break from the day-to-day onslaught of information allows your brain to connect the dots and thoroughly process the information you’ve received. Taking a break from the grind also allows for more diverse and pleasurable experiences, which triggers a more positive outlook. Shawn Anchor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, revealed some stunning statistics in a recent HBR article, which show that a positive brain can increase productivity by 31% and can triple your creative output.
Travel is important because it gets you out of your routine, spurs you to look around and take in all the details, and be more cognizant about how you communicate with those around you. However, you certainly don’t need to hop on a plane to experience the best of what travel can do for your creative self. Here are five ways to create space between you and your daily grind.
Brian Eno, anyone?
Music is universally human. Not only does it have the power to trigger a spectrum of emotions, it also helps us tune out the din of life so that we can meditate and process free from external distractions. The next time you are struggling with a creative hurdle, or just plain need a break from an overwhelming day, listen to ambient or chillout music. Developed by Brain Eno and other musical trailblazers, ambient and chillout engage your brain, but in a much more subtle way than traditional rock or pop. According to Lifehacker, these musical genres are “designed to relax the mind and allow it to roam, while providing just enough stimulation to register as inspiration.”
Get a new outlook.
Spend time at your favorite outdoor place with a view. Go on a nature hike, take a coffee break on the roof deck, hop on a free ferry; the important thing is to go somewhere that physically separates you from the place you live and work. I love bridges. There is something about standing in the middle of a bridge that triggers a sense of perspective, both literal and metaphorical. When sitting in traffic, or amidst a sea of co-workers, it can be difficult to “see the forest for the trees.” By physically removing yourself and observing from a distance, you can create the mental and physical space to allow for some different energy. The fresh air, the sun on your face, soothing sounds of the trees, and the muffled soundtrack of city sounds….take a big breath and say, ah.
Be an art critic for a day.
Live in a city with a free art museum? Take some time off to peruse the galleries during the quiet weekday hours. Take a seat on a bench and gaze at a painting that delights, confuses, or even repulses you. The act of looking at and contemplating art lets you into how others see and translate their environments. Simply meditating on the colors in front of you can help change your mood, too. Blue has long been thought to have a calming effect, but it is also linked to creativity and innovation. If you’re looking for a new perspective, the melancholy figures of Picasso’s blue period might just be a catalyst for your next inspired idea.
Help others. Help yourself.
You need not travel to Uganda for a month to reap the benefits of volunteerism. Around the corner from you, there are a multitude of volunteer organizations that could use your time and ingenuity, creative executive. So, take a walk in someone’s dramatically different shoes. Reading to children, mentoring a young person, helping an elderly person write their personal history, or handing out food at a pantry are amazing ways to change your perspective. Moreover, volunteering makes you feel good! That dopamine coursing through your system also provides you with a little kick of motivation you need to tackle that creative problem. To find volunteer projects in your area, check out volunteermatch.org.
Be a local tourist.
Routine = comfortable = rut. If you can’t take part in a far away adventure, be a tourist in your town. Get off the highway and drive the back roads, walk or ride your bike to the store, shop for unique ingredients and prepare an exotic meal, go on a guided walking tour to learn something new. Changing your routine enables you to see things differently, and that is the key to engaging your creativity.
Essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times “the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
Taking a break to think, be frivolous, be dreamy, be philosophical, be inspired….is the most important work you can do, Creative Executive.