Nielsen studies American media consumption across devices and platforms. In 2016, they determined the average person consumes ten hours and 39 minutes of media daily. Let that sink in.
As I write this, the Today Show is on in the background begging for my attention. I listen to audiobooks while driving and binge shows on Netflix to “wind down.” While I do all of those things I’m also scrolling Twitter and Instagram on my phone. Does this sound familiar?
A separate study conducted by the US government determined Americans spend just 21 minutes a day “relaxing and thinking". 21 minutes. We spend all of our time consuming and none of our time thinking.
This is an imbalance of epic proportions.
If our brains are so preoccupied with absorbing content we’ll never find time to create ideas of our own. As writers, we need to give our brains a break. Resting our mind is so important TED has dedicated an entire playlist to the concept (not that you need anything more to consume…).
Here are a few ways to let your mind wander and provide space to generate new ideas.
Go for a Walk
Walking, even for fifteen minutes, can allow the mind to rest and ideas generate. The trick is not listening to a podcast or music while walking. If you have a dog, this is a great way to give them some exercise while you let your mind wander.
We’re not talking hot yoga here. That is torture you consent to. Instead, we’re talking yin yoga. These restorative sessions focus on deep stretching and relaxation. While holding a pose, allow your brain to drift away from all the things you should be doing.
Don’t have time for a full yoga class? Give your mind a break with a quick shavasana, which you can do anywhere.
If you’re anything like me, your Apple Watch tells you to stop and breathe multiple times throughout the day. I don’t know if it knows I’m stressed or what, but I get the point.
To give your mind a break, stop and breathe deeply for a minute or two at a time. Not only does deep breathing bring rest into your day, allowing your brain to generate ideas, it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Bonus.
Is your brain unable to generate ideas because it’s too busy wasting time thinking about doing laundry, paying the bills, or fixing the cabinet that’s been broken for three years? To free room for new ideas, you’ve got to let go of these cluttered ones.
Writing all these thoughts down, dumping everything in your brain onto paper, gets them out of your head. You can plan to deal with the dump at another time which opens room in your brain for new ideas.
We all know the fix to 99% of technology problems is unplugging and plugging it back in. Sleep is the same thing for our brains. Resetting ourselves with a little extra sleep or, if we can swing it, an afternoon nap will benefit our creativity in multiple ways. Recharge and reset your brain with a little sleep so new ideas can flow.
Unhindered by endless media consumption and fueled by proper rest, your brain will develop unique thoughts and ideas. Create an idea journal capturing these things your brain generates.
While it’s tempting to use a digital format, anything with a screen invites distraction. It’s so easy to switch from your digital journal to anything else (I’ve done it a dozen times while writing this).
Instead, find a physical notebook you like and keep it with you. Physically writing our ideas helps embed them in our minds. In future times of rest and wander, the ideas will flourish.
Our brains are overstimulated. As writers, we need to let our minds rest so new ideas will grow. Find ways that allow you space to pause, slow down, and let go of unproductive thoughts and your brain will tap into its creativity.
Now, turn your screen off and get some rest!