Truth about why our awesome 'aha!' ideas come randomly?

You're on an early morning run; the air is warm, you're feeling great, and your mind is free of clutter. One foot in front of the other is all you are thinking about until it hits you; the idea you have been trying to figure out all week.

It's the idea you have spent hours brainstorming about and searching for; the one that comes so easily when the focus is on something else. For some, this 'aha' moment comes in the shower; for others it is while they are knitting or fishing, while others get the sudden burst of creative ideas while exercising.

Why is it that we get our best ideas when we're trying the least? How is it that we seem to solve problems, create inventions, solve puzzles, and generate our best ideas while relaxing in the bath, walking, and doing meditative-type activities?

Whatever method gets you there, we often do our best thinking when we are not focusing on the specific task. Research shows you're more likely to have a creative epiphany when you're doing something monotonous, like fishing, exercising, or showering.

Since these routines don't require much thought, you flip to autopilot. This frees up your unconscious to work on something else. Your mind goes wandering, leaving your brain to quietly play a no-holds-barred game of free association.

This kind of daydreaming relaxes the prefrontal cortex-the brain's command centre for decisions, goals, and behaviour. It also switches on the rest of your brain's "default mode network" (DMN) clearing the pathways that connect different regions of your mind.

With your cortex loosened up and your DMN switched on, you can make new, creative connections that your conscious mind would have dismissed. (1)

Everyone of us is capable of creative thought. So how do you capture this creative epiphany and make use of it? The following tips can help you free up your thoughts:

1. Keep a notebook with you at all times (or an app on your phone)

Write everything down, even if it doesn't seem important at the time and don't try to make sense of it; that comes later.

2. Plan for time in your day to have distraction and disengagement

This is your opportunity to go for a run, meditate, knit, or participate in any activity that takes your mind off of your day and gets the creative juices flowing.

3. Relax

In order for the free-flow creative thinking to happen, we must be relaxed. This allows the mind to wander freely and for people to be more open to their inner thoughts.

References

1. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1147152,00.html