With a new year comes the inevitable pressure to better ourselves. While the New Year’s resolution tradition is typically associated with physical health – be it ambitious fitness goals or dramatic diet changes – the resolutions we make don’t have to be limited to our bodies. We can fine-tune our minds while we’re at it, especially the creative part of them.
Want to resolve to be more creative this year? There are a number of surprisingly easy habit tweaks and routines that can improve our creative thinking and output all year long. Rather than setting huge, ambitious goals, it’s all about finding sustainable life changes that inspire creative habits you’ll be able to implement on a daily basis. Here are a few to try.
Write In A Journal Everyday (By Hand)
The act of putting pen to paper doesn’t just feel cathartic; It is scientifically shown to help process emotions, relieve stress, and even improve problem-solving skills. Physically writing things down by hand can even unlock potential creativity, which can take several forms: it may clear your mind and allow the creative juices to flow, or it can help with conceptualization, turning a glimmer of a thought into a full-fledged idea.
To reinforce the habit, make a commitment to write everyday for the next 30 days. Even if it’s just a paragraph or two about whatever’s on your mind that day, forcing yourself to get started – often the hardest part of writing – will unclog the dreaded writer’s block and help you make a routine out of it.
Not sure what to focus on? Try a gratitude journal. Invest in a sturdy notebook and end each day by writing down three things you’re grateful for. Whether it’s the big stuff like family milestones or something as simple as finishing a good book, gratitude makes for an easy writing prompt. It’s also good for your brain; Research shows that actively thinking about what we’re grateful for increases “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
Schedule Regular Nature Walks
We all know that getting outside and moving around is good for our physical health, but did you know it can help enhance creative thinking? Studies have shown that simply being in nature can have profound effects on our brains, like reducing stress, relieving attention fatigue, and improving our capacity to think and solve problems creatively.
It’s not just the natural surroundings that boost creativity – the physical activity plays its own part. Taking a break and getting your blood pumping is shown to increase activity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with imagination and creative thinking. So when planning out your busy week, carve out time each day to unplug, pull away from screens and notifications, and connect with the outdoors. Just go outside and let your mind – and your feet wander. It will do wonders for your physical and mental state.
…And as long as you’re heading outside, why not bring a camera?
Commit To A Daily Photo Challenge
Make this the year you stretch your photography muscles. Commit to taking one photo each day. Once it becomes routine, you’ll start finding inspiration from even the most unlikely of surroundings or circumstances. It will become instinctual to capture a reflection in a rain puddle, or a perfectly-framed candid street scene.
Not sure how to get started? We suggest checking out Lomography’s 10 Golden Rules of photography. This list of habits and mindsets are an excellent way to start greasing the wheels of a daily photo routine. The company’s mantra of “don’t think, just shoot” is a great mindset to carry with you as you venture out into the world each day. And if you need more specific ideas for your new photo-taking itinerary, the Dogwood 52 Week Photography Challenge offers a list of photo assignments and creative
Do Some Digital Spring Cleaning
This year, start your spring cleaning early, but don’t limit it to decluttering the garage and the living room. Focus on the family media archives as well. Carve out some time to digitize old analog media like photo prints and 35mm slides, as well back up and organize the digital files sitting on hard drives – or, even worse, still lingering on your phone’s camera roll.
The first – and arguably most urgent – order of business is digitizing the analog stuff before it’s gone forever. You can scan your photos at home or just send everything to the media-digitizing service and Fracture brand partner Legacybox and them handle it for you. Mail your VHS tapes, photos, and slides, and they’ll create high-quality digital files of all your cherished memories.
Whether you tackle the boxes of family photos in the attic, reorganize your external hard drives, or upload your photos to the cloud, start the year off with a task that replaces clutter with peace of mind.
Put Down Your Phone — And Let Your Mind Wander
Creativity flourishes when it has a place to grow. Very rarely do our best ideas come while scrolling on our phones. Inspiration grabs hold when our minds aren’t distracted — when we let our minds wander. The trick is giving your brain the opportunity to explore and think things through, without distraction. This is one of the reasons people often feel inspired when they’re in the shower or while driving.
Daydreaming is just one of many ways our brains continually work to find answers and solutions to problems. Get in the habit of spending time without an electronic device on-hand. Digital distractions dramatically reduce your creativity as a whole, from thinking creatively to finding solutions to complex problems. Over time, it will get easier to turn off the television and get swept up in a new creative endeavor.
Make Time For Naps
There’s a reason great ideas seem to come to you in the middle of the night. Sleeping on it, quite literally, gives your mind the chance to do some critical thinking. When you enter the deepest REM cycle of sleep, science shows, your brain is able to process thoughts more clearly and think more creatively while you’re awake.
By all means, strive to get the recommended amount of sleep each night, but don’t be shy about getting some shuteye while the sun is still out, too. Research shows that napping has all kinds of cognitive benefits, like better learning, emotional regulation, and impulse control, to name a few. It’s no wonder many big companies have dedicated nap rooms so employees can get some extra sleep.
However you approach the new year, give yourself the freedom to try out new habits and practices, and stick with the ones that foster creativity. Pick a few that you’ll be able to do consistently and that seem to have the most impact. The right side of your brain will thank you for it.