How exercise can get your creative juices flowing

We know how good exercise is for our body, but we often underestimate how important it is for our mind, too. As studies show, working out can boost your thinking power, too. 

Whenever I get writer’s block (and I do, frequently) I always find a walk does wonders. It turns out, science has examined this mind-body connection before, with numerous studies showing the wonders of working out for memory and thought-processing.

“Most people will be well aware of the benefits that exercise can bring to the body, for fitness, strength and weight loss, however possibly the most underrated benefit is what exercise can do for your mind,” says Noosha Anzab, clinical psychotherapist and psychologist at Lysn.

“It goes without saying that the endorphins released from exercise will give you an instant mood boost, but what many people don’t realise is the way it can actually enhance forms of thinking.”

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For example, one study from 2013, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, showed that people who exercise regularly demonstrated improved divergent and convergent thinking, i.e. creativity and problem-solving, respectively.

“While everybody is capable of both convergent and divergent thinking, it’s natural to lean more toward one or the other when approaching problems or projects,” says Anzab.

“Exercise can kick start both types of these ways of thinking, which can be incredibly beneficial for creativity. If you imagine both ways of thinking are like two sides of a coin, exercise can allow you to tap into a bigger spectrum of the imagination and enable you to generate original ideas.”

Anzab says it’s unfortunate that our mental and physical health are seen as two entirely separate entities, when in fact they are firmly intertwined.

“Mental health issues actually affect our physical health, yet for many of us, we still don’t treat it on the same playing field as our physical health,” she says.

“Mental health concerns can contribute to physical symptoms such as headaches, difficulty focusing, fatigued, lacking motivation, and having difficulty making decisions.”

She adds: “Taking care of your mental health through exercise can be viewed in the same way that exercise takes care of your body.”

Anzab says it’s important to find a way of incorporating a bit of exercise into your daily routine but find a way that works for you so it can become a habit.

“Depending on what research you look at some people say it can take anywhere between 21 days to 2 months to form and maintain a new habit,” she says, adding that humans are hard-wired for repetition.

“The repetition will eventually form a new neural pathway, which makes completing this behaviour an efficient and sometimes unconscious process.”

Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist and psychologist at Lysn; a digital mental health company with world-class wellbeing technology that helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist while being able to access mental health online tools.