A spa day can provide inspiration in many forms, from smart ways to improve your wellbeing to allowing you space and time to think. But if you really want to tap into your creative potential, read on: you could have your own personal 'Eureka' moment in the hot tub.
What is inspiration?
Inspiration can be a solution to a problem, or a brilliant idea that you can’t wait to get working on. When you are inspired, you feel a mental clarity as the idea forms in your mind, and excitement in your body, igniting the energy that propels you to make it happen.
How do I find it?
Jack London the writer said. “You cannot wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club!”
While rather macho, London has a good point: there is an element of the hunt in seeking inspiration. It is not a passive state but an active pursuit.
Some artists and poets have given Inspiration a mystical quality, referring to muses or using mind-altering substances to open the ‘doors of perception’. Others simply surround themselves with creative types, hoping inspiration will rub off.
But according to neuroscience, inspiration is a process. Studies have shown that in creativity, we use an ‘Imagination Network’ that links various parts of our brain, including the emotional limbic system, the hippocampus which processes our long- and short-term memories and the observing, intelligent pre-frontal cortex. It is a looping system of feeling, observation and reflection that deepens awareness, creating the conditions for inspiration to emerge.
Free your mind
To stimulate inspiration, scientists believe we should activate the ‘Imagination Network’ and quieten the ‘Executive Network’, with its critical voice, control issues and to-do lists.
In preparation, declutter your head. Make a list of things that don’t serve you, and maybe control you, be it FOMO (fear of missing out), fast food, to-do lists, certain people or situations. Leave that list in your spa locker, or outside in your car. Symbolic acts are powerful.
We often go through life with blinkers on, closed to each new experience. Imagine you are an alien who has just arrived on our planet – do you notice anything unusual or special in your surroundings? How does it make you feel? How would you describe it to your fellow aliens?
“If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us,” wrote Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda.
At a spa, as in life, we may become impatient with other spa-goers, seeing them as objects that are in our way. Instead, be curious about them: wonder what has brought them here, what are their life stories? Invent an entire movie around them and spark up your Imagination Network.
Step outside your comfort zone
“Do one thing every day that scares you,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.
Ever tried a plunge pool or an ice bucket shower? Or what about a Thai massage or acupuncture? Each new experience creates a new neural pathway, and a new learning opportunity. Fear awakens your senses and challenges your beliefs about your own limitations.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche.
Studies have shown that exercise stimulates the brain by creating new neurons in the hippocampus. Physical activity ignites mental processes. Engage in robust physical activity such as walking, running, aerobics, yoga, cycling or swimming, and fresh ideas will spring forth.
Keep a notebook with you
When an idea strikes, you need to write it down – whether it’s at 4am or after a swim or a stroll. A little A5 notebook will slip nicely into a spa robe. Write down anything that interests you: you might find it useful later.
Play around with ideas
The unconscious contains your own unique well of ideas. Freud used dreams to tap into it and keeping a dream journal can be a good source for inspiration. Free-flow writing is another way – write whatever comes into your head allowing the sentences to flow without thinking, however strange they seem. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or nice handwriting, just let it all out.
Learn a new craft
You can discover your own unique way of looking at the world by doing more creative activities. Join a workshop and learn printmaking, pottery, poetry or song writing – whatever grabs your fancy. Creative groups tend to provide support and encouragement, allowing you to explore your creative process and push you that little bit further.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to reach that transformation,” wrote Maya Angelou.
You may not come up with the answer today, but having a fresh perspective will impact on tomorrow, or even later tonight – so keep that notebook handy.