Scientifically Proven Ways to Start Thinking Creatively

a guy sitting on the rock in the sea at sunset

There are lots of articles out there with advice on how to improve creativity. But how much of it is actually backed by scientific research?

The following methods for boosting the imagination are all supported by published studies:

Stop Organizing Your Workspace

Apparently, keeping a messy desk serves as greater creative inspiration than keeping an organized one, according to a study published in Psychological Science. It kind of goes with the image of the mad genius who doesn’t know what color socks he’s wearing because he’s too busy inventing the internet. So, stop tidying up, sit down in your mess, and create.

Paint Your Walls Blue

The color blue has the ability to stimulate the brain’s creative synapses by reminding it of “the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility” according to Juliet Zhu, a psychologist who conducted a study on color association and brain activity. This sense of peacefulness also allows people to feel supported enough to risk creative exploration.

Turn Your Lights Down Low

Dim lighting also helps stimulate creativity. It makes people feel “freedom, self-determination and reduced inhibition.” A study that asked students to solve creative problems found that those in the dimly lit rooms (150 lux) performed much better than those in a brightly lit room (1,500 lux). Buy low-wattage light bulbs for your room to help activate your imagination.

Cultivate a Diverse Social Circle

A study of Stanford Business School alumni revealed that the graduates with the highest level of creative thinking were those who networked extensively with groups of people outside their business colleagues. This exposed them to new ideas and allowed them to take more risks in thinking than if they were restricted to their normal social group.

Hang Out in a Coffee Shop

This has nothing to do with the intellectual tradition that coffee shops have or with the drink itself. It turns out that most coffee shops have a level of noise that supports creative thinking, as stated by The Journal of Consumer Research. Many coffee shops tend to have about 70 decibels of background noise. Extremely quiet environments like that of a library are good places to work if you need to concentrate and focus. But they don’t stimulate creativity.


According to the article in the Scientific American heading into the unknown can also spark the creative fires. A different setting where anything could happen and your routine hasn’t worn a groove into your brain can help create new pathways in the brain and inspire the imagination. It also creates “psychological distance” from the rest of your life, which allows you to be more open to new thoughts and solutions.

Learn a New Language

Along with travel comes multilingualism – the ability to communicate in more than two languages. Whether you learn a new language in a foreign setting or at home, it doesn’t matter. The skill itself challenges the brain to refine its cognitive and problem-solving skills, leading to enhanced creative thinking.


Adopting a meditative practice into your daily routine could help you improve creatively. A study from Cornell University observed the creative skills of a group of new meditators over the course of five months. The results were heightened mental flexibility and enhanced figurative skills.


A little aerobic exercise is an incredibly useful habit to adopt. It not only ensures general overall health, but it improves mood and supplies the brain with fresh oxygen, thus enhancing your brain’s cognitive function and imaginative prowess. Next time you want to amp up your creativity, go for a short jog or bike ride, play tennis or go for a swim. Engage in the exercise of your choice to enhance your innovative abilities.

Who wouldn’t want to be more creative if they could? Here’s your chance to make use any or all of these methods to improve your creative abilities and see a difference in your imaginative skills. Enjoy!

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