Have you ever wondered why so many people have their best ideas while walking, showering or sleeping?
It’s in large part because such restful times allow the brain to step out of the linear thought process. After all, when you’re actively working, your conscious mind reigns supreme. It functions in a linear “if-then” kind of way. If this, then that. The issue is, you often fail to solve problems when you get stuck and begin obsessing about them.
On the other hand, when you stop trying, your subconscious mind kicks in. This allows your brain to pull random information out of storage, information that was otherwise inaccessible. This is where creativity is born.
But rest is also essential to peak performance. Let’s go back to the prior story of that British athlete, Roger Bannister. In 1954, when he set out to run the four-minute mile, he took a new approach. He didn’t push himself up until the last minute before the race. Instead, two weeks before the race, he abandoned training altogether and set out for the mountains to hike. Compared to his usual routine of constant running, this was more rest than he’d had in a long time. When the big day finally did arrive, he finished the mile in record time.
So rest is critical, but some forms are better than others. For instance, even the shortest walk can have significant benefits as long as you take it in the right locale.
This idea is supported by a Stanford study in which participants were asked to take a walk outdoors, indoors or not at all. They were then tasked with coming up with creative uses for many everyday items. Those who’d walked outdoors experienced the most apparent increases in creativity, but even those who’d walked indoors had 40 percent more ideas than those who’d opted to stay put.