5 Surprising Ways to Spark Creativity

Inspiration strikes when you least expect it—but there are times you’d really, really like it to show up on cue. For those moments, we gathered these five science-backed, totally unexpected ways to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Take a walk, ideally outside.

Step away from your desk: A 2014 study showed that walking helps people have more creative ideas. The effect lingers for a while, so you’ll be reaping the benefits even after you sit back down. If you can head outdoors, even better: Spending time in nature can boost creativity too, according to another study.

2. Ditch that quiet room for a coffee shop.

When it comes to creative thinking, a little background noise goes a long way. People were better at out-of-the-box thinking when there was moderate ambient noise than when it was super noisy or quiet, a 2012 study found. So head to the nearest coffee shop or tune into Coffitivity for café sounds wherever you are.

3. Wait until you’re wiped out.

Sounds crazy, but that time of day when you’re a little pooped may actually be your best to brainstorm. A 2011 study found that night owls were more creative in the morning, while morning people were more creative in the evening. Get your analytical, detail-oriented tasks done when you’re at your prime, and when your mind starts to wander, use it to dream up new ideas.

4. Embrace the messy desk.

When you have to look in several mugs to determine which one has this morning’s coffee, it’s a good time to brainstorm. Being in a disorderly space rather than a neat one made people more inventive, according to a 2013 study. After you’ve imagined something amazing, though, it may be time to tidy up a little bit.

5. Have that glass of wine.

But not the whole bottle—people with a blood alcohol content of 0.075 (the equivalent of two or three small glasses of wine) came up with more novel ideas more quickly than people who hadn’t been drinking, a 2012 study found. They were also (not so surprisingly) more likely to think their own ideas were super insightful—so you may want to wait and do a sober read-through before you start sharing.

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