You’re lying there, drifting off to sleep, feeling every muscle in your body to relax, when it hits you:
“Why isn’t 11 pronounced onety one?”
Maybe you’re in the shower, eyes closed as you rinse the shampoo out of your hair, enjoying the warm water on your face, when bang!
“Why isn’t there a mouse flavoured cat food?”
Or, if you’re anything like me, you are draped deeply into a particularly stretchy downward dog, really digging those Tibetan singing bowl sounds, when you snap your eyes open, and think:
“If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how will anyone ever know?”
If this sounds familiar, fear not. There is logic behind this completely illogical thought process, and it’s called having an ‘unloaded mind’.
Simply put, when your mind is ’empty’, more creative thoughts flourish.
In fact, there is a whole Reddit thread dedicated to ‘Shower Thoughts’, brimming with corkers such as “Why don’t we get an employee discount at the self checkout?”, or “It’s weird how yogurt is almost exclusively advertised to women.”
Basically, when you are not problem solving multiple concepts or challenges in your mind at any one time (When is the next train? What’s for dinner? Did I call back Dad? When is that project due? Do we have any milk left?), you actually have room for original and conceptual thinking.
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Research from the University in Israel found that the people with the highest mental loads gave basic replies to questions when their mind was ‘loaded’ with other information, such as numbers or words. For example, when asked for word association for “white”, they would respond with “black”.
But those with ‘unloaded’, or ’empty’ minds gave far more creative responses; such as responding to the “white” word association with the word “cloud”.
“The study attests to what he takes to be the exploratory nature of the mind,” reports Psychological Science magazine, “seeking novelty when it’s unencumbered, but turning to the “most familiar and inevitably least interesting solution” when occupied.”
But before you all rush out to stand blankly in your shower until a stroke of genius smacks you across the face, take note: there’s a shortcut.
And it’s called MEDITATION.
Yep, the ‘unloaded’ mind can be quickly and easily attained through some simple meditation practices. Taking the time to spend ten minutes a day, eyes closed, and consciously clearing your mind can be life changing. With many of us occupied with technology or personal interaction for our entire workday, the mind barely has time to take a breath, let alone tell you some juicy ideas.
Our reliance on smartphones serves to clog the mind with annoying fragments of information that we cannot process. By mindlessly scrolling through snippets of news, people’s lives, gossip, and conversations; we welcome unresolvable issues that have no ‘solution’ or thought process.
Like, perving on your work buddy’s holiday in Bali is fascinating – but would you still do it if you knew it was blocking future genius thoughts? No way!
From what we can tell from the studies, creativity is not a born trait. It’s more like a switch, one we can flick off or on, depending on how ‘loaded’ our minds are. This is a pretty important thing to note when preparing for events in which your mind needs to be sharp and innovative, like a panel discussion, job interview, or the stocktake sale at Myer.
Researcher Moshe Bar also notes that running or other exercise is a highly effective way of 'unloading' the mind. So whilst you might think it's just those clever little endorphins shimmying their way through your veins, it's also your mental state that is shifting.
Focusing on one single mission - to keep moving through the pain and discomfort - effectively sifts out the flotsam and jetsam of daily life that can get lodged.
So discover your inner genius and commit to an hour of mind emptying practice every single day. No Google needed.