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Why We Get Big Ideas in the Shower

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The science behind those brilliant ideas you get while you’re scrubbing.

UniversityofGuelph, brain, thoughts, shower

When I’m in the shower I become a cross between Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, and Leonardo daVinci.  Whether it is 7am or 11pm, if I’m applying the shampoo then I’m surely hatching brilliant schemes and making idea connections that I don’t seem to make anywhere else.  You might think its the warm water or the smell of my organic herbal hippy soap, but according to the scientists, it is neither of these things.

Turns out, the time you spend in the shower is in fact very special when it comes to brain activity because it is a time where your mind is most free to roam.  Why so much freedom compared to anywhere else? That is due to the excellent combination of having little to no external interruption or interaction combined with little required concentration.  You know how to wash yourself without having to focus on it, so your powerful brain and full focus can zoom in on something else. Similar moments where the same conditions can exist include: jogging, doing the dishes, and riding the bus.

Researcher Mark Fenske of the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada) has studied neuro-imaging of brain activity while a person is in the shower, and explains it as follows: “these types of situations allow the outermost regions of the prefrontal cortex – those areas of the brain that help exert cognitive control – to loosen the reins and allow thought processes and neural activity not strictly related to the primary task.”

Some may interpret this as evidence that we need more time to unplug and close off the outside world. But when you take a second look at what the research (and your morning shower) is telling us, it isn’t isolation that brings about big ideas.  It can actually be something routine or small, like background music, that can help us get to that place where our brain is active but is still free to wander and come up with all those brilliant shower ideas.

Next I hope they study why my brilliant ideas so easily go down the drain.  (yes, enjoy a bonus pun)

Source: The Globe and Mail

Photo: jordanmerrick / flickr

ways to increase creativity, shower thinking

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