Why Great Ideas Come in the Shower

If you’ve ever had some of your best ideas while showering, it’s not an accident. There’s actually a scientific reason for it.

Basically, any activity that can be done automatically frees your mind to be creative. This can be walking your dog, taking a shower, or anything that doesn’t require much thought.

“People always get surprised when they realize they get interesting, novel ideas at unexpected times because our cultural narrative tells us we should do it through hard work,” says Kalina Christoff, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “It’s a pretty universal human experience.”

According to recent research, there is a pattern of brain activity that occurs when we are resting or doing habitual tasks that don’t require much attention. It’s called the default mode network (DMN) which connects more than a dozen regions of the brain, and it becomes more active during passive tasks. In other words, the DMN is “the state the brain returns to when you’re not actively engaged,” explains Roger Beaty, a cognitive neuroscientist and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab at Penn State University. This is in contrast to when you’re really concentrating — then the brain’s executive control systems keep your thinking focused, analytical, and logical.

But while the default mode network plays a key role in the creative process, “it’s not the only important network,” Beaty says. “Other networks come into play as far as modifying, rejecting, or implementing ideas.” So you still have to critically examine ideas that come out of a long shower.

For more information, see “The Science of Why You Have Great Ideas in the Shower” by Stacey Colino (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/the-science-of-why-you-have-great-ideas-in-the-shower? ).

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