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Easy Ways to Carve Out Mental Space for Creativity

By July 25, 2018August 17th, 2021Innovation
A young woman puts a pencil to her head while thinking about what to write next

As the weather warms up (and becomes downright steamy in Philadelphia), I’m spending time vacation planning, patching together summer schedules for my kids, and looking forward to work winding down. Yet, as visions of sunscreen and boardwalk fries dance through my head, I keep having thoughts for new projects I want to explore. I find myself dashing off emails to colleagues that start with, “What do you think about…?”

Thank Theta for Helping You Carve Out Mental Space for Creativity

My first thought was, why can’t I unplug? And then I realized my brain is doing what comes naturally. When we take a mental break, our brain goes into the theta state.

According to educator and researcher Ned Herrmann, there are four categories of brainwaves, ranging from most to least active. Theta is the third state, where the brainwaves are slower and higher frequency. It occurs when we do things like drive somewhere on mental autopilot — like when I drove past a turn today because I was taking my normal route to work even though I wasn’t going to work.

We’re in theta when we’re zoned out on a long run, when we’re awake in bed but lying there listening to the birds chirping outside the window, or when we’re scrolling Pinterest for more projects we’ll never really do. Ever wonder why you have great ideas in the shower or just before you fall asleep? Thank theta.

Tips to Help You Cultivate Your Creative Brain

That makes summer vacation the perfect time to dream up those new projects for fall — to think now and do later. How can you stay in theta state, but not lose the inspiration?

  1. Take note! It’s usually enough to just jot down a headline for your idea that you can go back to and explore later. Treat yourself to a pretty pocket-sized spiral bound notebook that keeps you in the summer spirit, or use the notes app on your phone, which you’re sure to have nearby whether you’re hiking, sightseeing, or beaching.
  2. Go old school. Shun social media — just for a bit! — in favor of old-fashioned magazines and books. Read in the hammock, and dog-ear pages that inspire you. Reading about a celebrity podcast the other day gave me the idea to do a podcast at work!
  3. Take mini mental vacations. Does summer have you stuck in the office more than you hoped? Ride your bike to work, have lunch in the sun, and play some music while you take a smoothie break. Invoke some joys of the season throughout your day to help you crack whatever challenges come across your desk.

Just think, with all this inspiration, maybe you’ll think of a new idea for getting sand out of everywhere…happy summer!

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.


Michelle Histand

As Director of Innovation at Independence Blue Cross, Michelle uses design to solve sticky problems in health care and beyond. She loves taking a mess and making sense of it while giving people new tools and frameworks to get creative. She has been with IBX for over 15 years and previously worked with LA Weight Loss and Nordstrom, where she gained a wealth of customer experience insight. Michelle has her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and her master’s in Writing Studies from St. Joseph’s University. She also teaches topics on innovation and entrepreneurship at Temple University. When she’s not drawing flip charts and ideating, Michelle spends her time in South Philadelphia with her husband and three amazing boys, who do their best to exhaust her tireless energy.