What do companies like Apple, Google, Nike and Disney all have in common? They consistently push creativity to new boundaries with each idea. But that’s not the only trait these innovators share – they’re also pioneers in the promotion of employee meditation and mindfulness programs. Whether it’s relaxation rooms or on-site guides to lead meditation sessions, the world’s most creative companies are putting their people in positions to open their minds and do their best work.
We often think of meditation in terms of relaxing the brain’s stress alarms, and that’s absolutely true. The more mindful you are, the less anxious you find yourself becoming even in so-called stressful situations. And while that’s a big benefit to meditation in and of itself, there are bigger-picture improvements to our overall health, well-being and mental performance that exist on the other side of being less stressed. Chief among them is an increase in creative brainpower.
How many times have you been pressed to “chime in” on a group project or creative brainstorm at your office? Do you feel the anxiety bubble up as your turn to add to the pot of ideas approaches? You might think to yourself, “I’m not a creative person, I have nothing good or valuable to add,” which is a paralyzing judgmental thought. From this place, your brain is working overdrive to come up with all sorts of scenarios that all end in your failure – and you haven’t said a word yet! The irony should not be lost on the creative energy you end up putting into thinking of all the ways you’re not creative.
Meditation isn’t going to make you a creative person. Believe it or not, it’s actually going to reveal that you already are one. The human brain has a hierarchy that’s tied to our evolutionary survival instincts – our fight or flight center is the first to process the world, and our limbic system tells us how we should emotionally react to it. In the un-meditated brain, these parts control our thoughts – so we end up with anxiety-inducing, self-centered interpretations of the world. There’s no energy left for the neocortex, the part of our brain that thinks creatively, solves problems and sees the bigger picture. We all have the capacity for expanded creative thoughts, but our brain literally never gets around to it. It’s why we often think of great comebacks or jokes hours after the fact.
So think of meditation as your muse that will unlock your latent creativity. Even twenty-five minutes of guided meditation a day can help give your brain permission to think of ideas without judgment. A huge part of being creative is failing, and meditation will give you the permission to do just that. In fact, the less rigid your brain is when it comes to thinking outside the box, the more ideas you’ll discover you have. Not all of them will be good, but that’s the point – finding one great idea out of a hundred in a non-judgmental state will feel like a much more creative process than making one highly self-judged idea the be-all, end-all.
If you’re struggling to find the fun in unlocking your own creative side, try a daily meditation routine that centers on openness to yourself and to the world. Trust that the ideas will come from somewhere and don’t judge them when they do. Then all that’s left is to wow everyone at the office with your fountain of creative thoughts.