For many people, a car is just a means of getting from point A to point B. For others, cars have more meaning, whether it’s pure driving pleasure, taking a trip with friends and family, or a reflection of someone’s personality. Cars can also serve another purpose – in a way you might not expect. Driving is a great catalyst for creative thinking to get big ideas.
How driving makes you more creative
Have you ever had an “aha” moment at an unexpected moment when you were doing a routine activity? It could be while you’re in the shower, having some dinner in the kitchen, brushing your teeth in front of the sink, or working out at a gym. You join, and then bam! A great idea comes to mind.
You come up with a beautiful way to decorate your home. If you’re an artist, you might make up a vision for a painting or imagine a new song in your head. It can also be coming up with a solution to a problem that has been holding you back or brainstorming new ideas for your work.
During my college days, to pay for my tuition, I had an extremely tedious task of packing boxes on a conveyor belt in a warehouse. However, this was also one of the most creatively fruitful times of my life. I wrote dozens of songs and made plans to travel the world while routinely dozing off on the assembly line.
It’s no accident that your mind is most creative when it’s busy with routine activities. The same goes for driving a car. When you’re in a vehicle and routinely going from point A to B, your mind can come up with spectacular ideas. Moreover, Aviva found that one in five people use a car ride to think. During the early months of the pandemic, when people drove less, one in four people missed the “thinking opportunity” that a vehicle offers.
The science behind creative thinking while driving
There is an interesting scientific reason why people are more creative when driving. dr. Shelley Carson is the author of Your Creative Brain and a researcher and lecturer at Harvard University. She has been studying the links between psychology, creativity and neuroscience for more than two decades.
“I drive 50 miles from work to my home in South Boston. It probably takes me about 20 minutes to get out of town, and that’s when I start to calm myself down,” said Dr. carson. She continued, “As soon as I get out on the open road, I’m relaxed, and that’s when ideas really seep through and make their way through the filters.”
During non-routine, mentally stimulating activities, a part of the brain called the central executive network is more active. The central executive network is the conscious part of the brain that allows us to focus on an activity. It also filters what it considers to be non-essential thoughts from the subconscious, which is called the default mode network. Also called the imagination network, the default mode network is the part that does the mind-blowing and creative thinking.
dr. Carson explains: “When you drive on a free road for a long time, you go into an automatic state that lowers the volume on the central executive network. That frees up a lot of your information processing space to let your mind wander. Ideas that would normally be filtered out collide and reach what I call the cognitive workspace, or conscious awareness.”
How to use a car trip to boost your creativity
You can use a car ride to unleash your creative potential. The next time you’re in need of some creative inspiration or come across a challenging problem you’re having a hard time solving, head to your car. The best type of roads for creative thinking are those that are quiet and have little to no traffic.
“The changes of environment bring new external stimuli into the cognitive workspace at the same time as your internal stimuli, which is beneficial for creativity as long as the landscape doesn’t grab your attention,” said Dr. carson.
Gather information before your car trip and ideas will flourish as you drive
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It also helps to gather all the information you need before starting your vehicle. ‘Suppose you are writing a book and you are blocked. Discuss your problem as much as you can and then take a break from it for a while before driving.
It’s a bit like planting seeds in a garden. You plant the information seeds in your brain before you drive the car. Then as you go, this information will grow and blossom into great ideas with a burst of creativity.
In addition, you can easily forget your creative ideas while driving. With this in mind, it’s helpful to record them so you can remember them later. You can express your ideas in a recording device. You can also stand at the side of the road to write them down or type them in on a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
Before you take your next car trip, get your brain ready for some creativity — and you might just come up with your next brilliant idea.
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