Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Simulating the Shower Effect: My Experiment to Recreate a Creative Environment

I love a nice, warm shower.

Warm water is incredibly relaxing, especially before a monstrous morning or after a long day. While I love the sensation of the water, I really enjoy what happens to me while I shower. I think of some of my best ideas while I shower.

I haven’t yet become a millionaire, but I have managed to solve difficult questions like what’s for dinner.

Joking aside, I do get great ideas for problems I’ve been mulling over while showering. Naturally, I have become curious about why the shower is a great place to generate ideas.

More importantly, I’m curious if I can deconstruct why showers are creative idea factories. I want to take the elements which make a shower a highly creative time and create an additional creative environment.

Behold, this article is the result of my Google-fu and my attempt to use my brain. Caution, this article may still be a bit smokey…

Why We’re Creative in the Shower

After an exhaustive search of 2 sources, one from 2014 and one from 2018, I found the biggest three reasons we generate creative ideas while showering.

1. Dopamine

Turns out, dopamine is important for more than motivation. The 2018 article highlighted Alice Flaherty’s research on creativity which discovered dopamine’s key role.

In essence, if you’re pumped full of dopamine, it’s easier for you to become relaxed and obtain alpha brain waves.

For those unfamiliar, alpha brain waves are the same ones we see during REM sleep. We often associate these waves with a calm, but active mind. These are also the waves obtained by long-time monks while they meditate.

2. Distraction

Distraction is a vital part of generating creative ideas. When we’re distracted our brains enter a diffuse mode of thinking.

I first learned about the different modes of thought our brain has in Barbra Oakley’s learning how to learn MOOC. She spends a long time highlighting the difference between a brain in the diffuse or focused mode.

When your brain is in the focused mode it’s exceptional at analyzing what’s in front of it. Unfortunately, the brain’s attention is narrow while in a focused mode.

A narrow focus makes patterns hard to see. When in a diffuse mode of thinking, the brain excels at discovering underlying patterns because it considers more options.

The wider range of options considered means the brain has a greater chance of connecting two or more seemingly dissimilar thoughts. Creativity is often a unique combination of otherwise ordinary ideas.

3. Relaxation

Distraction and higher levels of dopamine are associated with relaxation. In my view, being relaxed is our body’s way of telling us we’re ready for new, creative ideas.

Although relaxation is highly personal, we generally find relaxation coinciding with dopamine when we are completing mundane tasks.

Mundane tasks allow our brain to drift since we can usually do them on autopilot, generate dopamine since we’re completing a task, and relax us because we’re not stressed and are producing feel-good chemicals in the brain.

The most common activities which would allow for relaxation, dopamine, and distraction are exercising, showering, routine cleaning, and if you’re not in New England, driving a familiar route.

It only takes one good idea to change the trajectory of our day, month, year, or even life.

Key Elements Deconstructed

Now that we know the three key elements of creativity, let’s work backward and try to figure out ways to make these events more likely.

Firstly, when you’re tired you’re more easily distracted and usually more relaxed. This implies the prime time for creativity is on either bookend of sleep. So, we should build a creativity routine around either the morning or evening.

Since you use one of these bookends for a shower, you should choose the other to implement your habit.

Second, phones are not allowed.

It seems like our phones follow us everywhere. While they are great for quick communication and rapid access to information, they interfere with our ability to relax. So, where and whenever you decide to implement your ritual, the phone, and other similar distractions, must be away.

Lastly, we should be doing a mundane but rewarding task. If it’s early in the morning, then light exercise would be great. If you’re trying to implement this in the evening, then a room cleaning and journaling routine may be ideal.

My Implementation

I personally shower in the morning. I choose morning showers since they give me a reason to roll out of bed. Therefore, I’ve tried to implement an evening routine.

As I suggested above, I decided to reset my room to neutral, lay out my clothing for tomorrow, light incense, and then journal.

Results so far

Although I haven’t had any major breakthroughs, I have generated about 20 article ideas over 30 days without changing any of my other habits.

I consider this a win.

Before implementing this routine I struggled to come up with ideas at all. Now, I’m usually at least a week ahead on article ideas, which makes writing more fun for me.

I hope to document my continued progress in six months time. By then, I hope to continue improving my routine for maximum creativity.

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Dallas Blowers

Dallas Blowers

I’m a nonprofit professional who’s deeply passionate about effective learning, self improvement, and chasing my curiosity wherever it leads.