In 1889 the philosopher and writer Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
He wasn’t alone in his sentiment. Inventors, artists, writers, and even Silicon Valley tech Gods like Steve Jobs have all credited walking with giving them a creative edge, or helping them to solve “unsolvable” problems. Even Einstein credits a good walk in nature with giving him new ideas and insights. A new study from Stanford says that there is a scientific basis for conjuring more creativity just by going for a walk.
Walking has also been done by human beings for millions of years. Creative ideation – the process of making seemingly unrelated bits of information floating in your brain come together in a cohesive, but novel and helpful way is essentially accessed when we enter certain brainwave states. These states happen more easily when we are:
- in nature
- walking idly with no particular place to go
Our brains are an electromagnetic organ. When our neurons fire in certain patterns, they literally create waves that move across the brain just like a wave moves in the ocean. Certain states, like beta, cause us to be more analytical and critical, which is great if you want to calculate a row of numbers or avoid crossing the street as the same time a double decker bus is passing by.
Beta is not so great for creativity. The brainwave state that promotes creative thought is usually Alpha with spikes of Theta and Delta.
Here are the five most common brainwave states that people spend the majority of their lives in:
Beta (14-40 Hz) – Beta is associated with critical thought, reasoning and logic. It is also where our inner critic lives, that likes to tell us things aren’t possible and that tends to be more negative.
This state is important for certain tasks, but it isn’t a state that you want to linger in all the time, as it can cause you to lose your creative edge, induce anxiety or depression, and keep you running from danger instead of embracing your destiny.
Alpha (7.5 – 14 Hz) – This is the most common brain wave state you enter when you are meditating or daydreaming. You are relaxed but aware. Your stress levels are low and you can let your hair down.
Alpha is the best brainwave state to in for personal growth work as you are highly suggestible while in it.
Theta (4 – 7.5 Hz) This is the brain wave state which you want to induce to be relaxed, open to your internal guidance, and though alert, completely non-reactive and present. Theta is the brain wave state associated with REM sleep but also profound insight, creativity, spiritual connection, and oneness.
The border between alpha and theta (around 7.5 Hz) seems to be ideal for creative visualization and mind programming.
It just so happens that walks in nature tend to create an Alpha-Theta brainwave state.
Delta (.5 – 4Hz) This brain wave state is where the body restores itself. We are most commonly in delta when we are fast asleep.
Delta waves can be created while conscious with meditation but are most often created in deep sleep. You can achieve them in both states, but just making sure you get ample, uninterrupted sleep should cause you to go into this state daily.
Gamma (40 Hz and above) This brainwave state was only just recently measured and it indicates super-learning and high levels of insight.
The Stanford study doesn’t go into brainwave states but it confirms what mystics, saints, and yogis have known for centuries. When we go into an alpha state, which some people call daydreaming, and others call relaxed awareness, we get a whole lot more creative and insightful.
The research showed that creative output in people who went for walks increased a whopping 60 percent. Just imagine if you add the benefits of nature, and you’ve got a surefire recipe to get as creative as you want to be. Look out Andy Warhol.