What do Beethoven, Virginia Woolf and Steve Jobs have in common? Yes, they were all creative. But they also shared an important habit that helped them to be so creative:
Beethoven would write symphonies in his head while on long, solitary walks through the woods and vineyards near Vienna, Austria. Noted British author Virginia Woolf would often wander London's parks for inspiration. Steve Jobs, the quirky co-founder of Apple, preferred to have meetings and serious conversations while walking. Come to think of it, so did other creative people, including Aristotle and Charles Dickens.
The simple act of going for a walk can indeed provide you with a much-needed burst of creative thinking, according to a recent study from Stanford University and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.
Stanford researchers studied the creative thinking of more than 170 students and other adults in various stages of sitting and walking. They found that a person's creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. Creativity continued even after a person sat down shortly after a walk, the study found.
"We're not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo," said Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology and co-author of the report. "But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity."
The study did find that while walking can help spur creative thinking and brainstorming, the type of thinking that's often needed to accomplish a single, focused task can be best done while sitting.
So if you're in a rut for ideas for your next blog post, or having a hard time thinking of a way to develop a marketing campaign or kick off a presentation, you might consider strapping on a comfy pair of sneakers and heading outside. No purpose in mind, just walk. Wander. Get your creative juices flowing.