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The easy, scientifically-proven tricks that'll help you be more creative.

The Christmas holidays are just around the corner, which is the perfect time to get your creative juices flowing and start that project or business idea you have been itching to do.

But when it comes to thinking creatively, I’m sure you have experienced that moment sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper desperate for great ideas to come out – but nothing comes. It’s as if someone has turned your ideas tap off.

The good news is that there are some very simple methods you can use to turn the tap back on. Here are a few techniques that have been scientifically proven to get you instant results.

Thinking creatively mightn't be as hard as you think. Image via iStock

1. Look for the odd one out

Getting your best ideas flowing can be as simple as staring at an image for a couple of minutes – as long as that image represents the concept of ‘being different’. One study compared the ideas generated by people looking at a poster depicting an ‘odd one out’ image versus people seeing an image representing conformity. The ‘odd one out’ viewers came up with significantly more ideas. In addition, their ideas were judged as being 25% more creative.

So hop on Google Images and search for “odd one out” and you’ll be coming up with great ideas in no time.

Looking at images that represent 'the odd one out' can boost your creativity by up to 25%. Image via iStock
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2. Clench your left hand

Psychology Professor Nicola Baumann set up an experiment where one group of people had to squeeze a ball with their left hand while the other group had to squeeze a ball with their right. It was found that this simple act of squeezing one’s left hand activated a brain circuit associated with thinking holistically and intuitively, and thus more creatively.

So the next time you have a creative problem to solve, squeeze your left hand into a fist for optimum creative results.

Listen: Dr Amantha Imber on Mamamia's I Don't Know How She Does It podcast. (Post continues after audio.)

3. Turn up the volume

While silence is great for many different types of work, when it comes to creativity, research suggests you should turn up the volume. Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that 70 decibels (the sound level of a busy café or city street) is the optimal noise level for creativity. It leads to a greater amount of distraction compared to lower noise levels, and some distraction is important for creativity.

So now you have science to back you up when you tell your partner you are off to work in a café for the morning.

70 decibels - the noise level of a busy street or cafe - is the optimal volume for creativity Image via iStock
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4. Get sweaty

Participating in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise has been found to increase our ability to think creatively. And, our increased creative ability lasts for up to two hours post-exercise.

Rather than leave your workouts for the evening, you’ll be far better off going for a run first thing in the morning to get creativity flowing right from the start of your day.

30 minutes of aerobic exercise has been found to increase our ability to think creatively Image via iStock

5. Raise your eyebrows

Researchers at the University of Maryland theorised that facial expressions associated with widening and narrowing our visual perception affected creativity.

They thought that broadening your visual field, such as raising your eyebrows, could increase performance on a creative thinking task. Likewise, they hypothesised that furrowing your brows, which narrowed your attention field, would have the opposite effect.

Participants in the study were asked to hold one of these expressions for two minutes, while completing a creative thinking task. The eyebrow-raising group generated significantly more original ideas and a greater quantity of ideas.

So provided you haven’t had any recent Botox injections, raise your eyebrows when you are faced with that blank sheet of paper and watch the ideas flow out.

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of innovation consultancy Inventium. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives. Amantha can be contacted at [email protected]

Read about Dr Imber's decision to give her staff unlimited leave here.

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