Let’s set the scene. It’s either first thing in the morning once you hop out of bed or after your evening workout, or maybe even in the middle of the day if that’s what you prefer (this is judgement-free zone). You feel the water trickle down your back as you step into your safe space — the shower.
Aside from thinking about whether to soap your body or wash your hair first, there’s not much else to ponder over and you finally feel relaxed. Cue the creative genius.
Science Behind Shower Thoughts
Our brains allow us to think most creatively when dopamine is released. Dopamine is commonly referred to as a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that is released when you do something that encourages this feeling of excitement and joy.
A dopamine rush can be attributed to many different activities, including exercise, your favorite TV show, new music, cookies in the oven, and — you guessed it — even a warm shower or bath.
Alpha waves may also intensify once dopamine is released, which typically compliments the spaced-out feeling one gets when meditating or daydreaming. Therefore, a combination of dopamine and alpha waves is the ultimate recipe for max creativity.
The Default Mode Network
Our “default mode network,” otherwise known as DMN, also turns on with the influx of dopamine. With this, we feel more relaxed, allowing our mind to make more meaningful connections and put thoughts together we may not have otherwise.
This DMN helps to activate the subconscious. This part of the brain is putting in work behind the scenes and is coming up with creative solutions for current problems (and you may not even realize it!). Your conscious mind might’ve pushed these same thoughts out of mind and out of sight, which plays into the idea that distraction is key for big ideas.
Daydreaming and random thoughts with little to no distraction from the outside world also puts your brain’s prefrontal cortex at ease. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making and most behavioral aspects of life. Therefore, when in the shower and not thinking about much else aside from which shampoo to use, there is more room in the brain for new thoughts to arise.
When your DMN is off, you are more laser-focused. This can help you check off tasks on your to-do list, but it might not necessarily stir up those creative ideas you need. Sometimes, it’s better to shut down your laptop and take a walk or hop in the shower. While distracted and the mind is elsewhere, the DMN can turn on and the little creative voice inside your head might just speak up to give you the answer to your problem or that big idea for your next work campaign.
On the Clock
Time of day also matters. A lot of people tend to bathe in the morning or at night. These two times of day are when we’re most exhausted, so you may be wondering how we are supposed to have our best ideas in those conditions. Well, that’s when you’re at your creative peak. Unbeknownst to most, you are your most creative self when most tired — Believe It or Not!
So stuck on a problem at work? Experiencing writer’s block? Store it away in the back of your brain and the perfect solution may just come when you least expect it – while conditioning your hair.
By Sam McCormack, contributor for Ripleys.com