Hey all! I’m a little late today, but excited to bring you the next installment in our Ask the Pros series of blogs. Our blogger today is Angela Grace. She is a psychologist and life coach and all around great human being. Today she offers her professional advice on how to combat what every author fears, writer’s block.
Get Up Go Outside
by Angela Grace
If you’re looking for a spark to cure an empty imagination, go outside. Embrace the great outdoors and your creativity will come alive. Instinctively, this is common sense. And, over the past few decades there is also solid psychological and neurological research of healthy brain functioning, validating the theory of increased creativity while being immersed in natural settings.
Of course, there are rules for this to be truly successful.
First, being in a natural setting means an environment with any variation of plants, trees, animals, wind, lakes, oceans, cactus, sun, wilderness, rain, flowers, etc. Be in an atmosphere where it’s possible to feel the sun or hear the gentle breeze. It is more restorative to see into the distance without obstructions. Look for endless horizons, like the vistas seen from mountains above the tree line or over large bodies of water. If you do not have access to those inspirational landscapes, a city park or nature trail will do. In other words, seek the opposite of a man-made inside enclosure.
Second, the longer you can participate in activities in nature, the better. A quick break, a few minutes outside can be refreshing. A 30-minute walk outside is better.
In an ideal scenario, safely taking a hike or being immersed for three days or more in a wilderness area will open the mind. The first day is spent acclimating to the environment; the Brain’s attention focuses on constantly scanning for threats. (The “Brain” consists of many deeply interacting systems, such as the amygdala, hypothalamus, cerebellum, vagus nerve and many others. For purposes of this blog, all these systems are simply referred to as the Brain). By the second day the Brain calms down and starts to open to more creativity. Day three the Brain is in sync with the natural environment; the Brain chemistry continues to change and is replenished; new neural pathways are created; various Brain systems interact in new ways. New associations are connected in thoughts. Creativity flourishes.
Third, feeling safe, both physically and emotionally, is crucial. It is counterproductive to be in a natural setting but feeling hyper-vigilant. Each individual’s comfort level in a natural setting may differ. What is important is to relax, breathe deeply, and pay attention to the beauty in the surroundings. This means (okay, I know this one may be difficult for some) it is necessary to eliminate the potential for sudden events, such as a phone ringing, texts, email messages, sirens, horns, alarms, television, all of which may hijack the Brain’s attention. The bottom line is: technology needs to be turned off in order to escape, for at least a short time, from problems, issues, work, boring habitual activities, or current upsetting cultural events,
From a different perspective, it may be useful to think in terms of scale, or range of benefits resulting from interaction with nature. Beautiful wilderness offers more replenishment than a noisy, urban park. Hours spent outdoors are better than 30 minutes. Yet, even 30 minutes in an urban park has shown to increase creativity. It’s like if you are thirsty, a teaspoon of water is beneficial but drinking a quart is restorative.
If you find yourself at a standstill in your writing, get up, get outside, immerse yourself in nature and you will find your spark.
Board Certified Coach