May 30th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Think your creativity has abandoned you? Can’t come up with a catchy idea for a sales slogan (or a sermon application, preachers)? Stuck on how to begin an essay? No way out of the mundane thoughts crowding your brain?

Well there is a solution: take a walk! (But not too long, lest your attempt to jumpstart creativity turn into an excuse for procrastination.)

Researchers at Stanford University recently published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition appropriately titled “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking.”

We intuitively recognize that physical exercise improves cognition, but now and for the longer term. Now science appears to have substantiated what we suspected all along.

Marily Oppezzo, lead author on the study, reminisces about her days as a grad student at Stanford:

My adviser and I would go for walks to discuss thesis topics. And one day I thought: ‘Well, what about this? What about walking and whether it really has an effect on creativity?’”

The scientists recruited a bunch of undergrads in a plain room with a desk and a treadmill to perform tests of creativity, like coming up rapidly with alternative uses for common objects like safety-pins and buttons and stuff. Then they had to get on the treadmill and walk at a comfortable, self-chosen pace. (The treadmill, BTW, faced a blank wall.). The creativity tests were repeated, while they were on the treadmill.

Almost every individual’s creativity increased substantially while walking.

But would these effects linger once they were off the machine? They did! After walking these folks produced more creative ideas than they did before walking. On a treadmill. Facing a blank wall.

But surely an outdoor walk, fresh air, sunlight (including dangerous ultra-violet radiation), visual and aural stimulation (and exposure to plenty of nasal allergens) would produce even more creativity.

Dr. Oppezzo thought so, too:

Most people would probably guess that walking outside should be much better for creativity than pacing inside a drab office.”

But you and I and she were all proven wrong.

Strollers exploiting Stanford’s pleasant, green campus were not any more creative than they were while trudging on a walking machine facing a blank wall, in a drab room.

Said Dr. O.:

It really seems that it’s the walking that matters in terms of spurring creativity.”

The authors declared in their paper:

Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”

But no one seems to know how this really works. Improvement of mood? Diversion of energy and blood flow to regions of the brain involved in creativity? Dr. Oppezzo confessed her inability to pinpoint the cause, though she said she was going to go for a walk later to come up with more creative theories and inventive ways to test them!

Walking. To be creative.

Maybe the ancients knew a thing or two about this. Well, maybe not about creativity, but about walking. In fact in ancient Greek, the verb “to walk” is synonymous with “to live.” The picture of the Christian life as a walk is widely utilized in the Bible.

Walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16

Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:12

And, of course, Jesus is the Way:

“I am the way.”
John 14:6

Forget creativity. Let’s be spiritual. Walk by the Spirit, in the way of Christ, worthy of God.

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