07 January 2008

Shower Power – Why We Get Our Best Ideas Where We Do:

I just had a shower… not very interesting at first I know, but there’s more to it. For some reason almost always whenever I have a shower I find myself thinking better. My ideas tend to be most likely to consolidate themselves on a subconscious level while I shower. Hence it comes as no surprise that many of what I consider to be my best ideas have either begun or somehow been further developed as I shower. Obviously I’m was curious to find out why this might be, so I’m putting on my thinking cap, by which I of course mean my shower cap.

Now as far as I’m aware there is psychically nothing odd about most people’s showers which would help the brain to function, however one clever friend of mine suggested that “people have their best ideas in the shower because the water dissolves CO2 and some particles in the air, allowing more oxygen to the brain.” As interesting as this point sounds, and I suppose as technically plausible as it could be, I remain somewhat sceptical about it. I honestly don’t think that much oxygen would separate from the water, or that the small amount that might would make much of a tangible difference on our brains ability to think.

The same friend had however only noted the point as a suggestion as we had run out of non-psychological reason as to why people seem to think so well in the shower. However when thinking later one could also argue that people are typically alone in a shower and typically not being disturbed which also allows an idea to build itself unperturbed, still this has psychological importance too. So in the end we both concluded that it was most likely the psychological triggers of having a shower that cause people to often have good ideas. What are these triggers you ask?

Well, when people shower they typically feel more relaxed. It’s a simple fact of life, showers can be quite refreshing and relaxing, so long as one isn’t in an awful rush. Hence people typically allow their mind to relax, which means that conscious thought dies down and the subconscious thought processes tick away at various problems here and there. Hence you often get one of those “Eureka!” moments which sometimes even surprises yourself, as you had not really consciously been thinking of the problem. Even if you are still using your conscious mind while problem solving in the shower it will most likely be done in a much more relaxed state, which no doubt helps one to focus more and solve the issue at hand.

As one website, http://www.paulgraham.com/ideas.html, commented:
“What happens in that shower? It seems to me that ideas just pop into my head. But can we say more than that? Taking a shower is like a form of meditation. You're alert, but there's nothing to distract you. It's in a situation like this, where your mind is free to roam, that it bumps into new ideas.”

However this phenomenon need not necessarily occur only in showers. It could really occur anywhere where one feels relaxed. My father has recently been relaxing up north in the country and while up there has said he has been able to make some good progress on the book he has been writing, that is the power of a relaxed state of mind. It represents a mind at peace, and able to work to its fullest capacity. Ultimately it should be a state of mind we attempt to be in at all times, but unfortunately the daily little stresses of life often make it difficult for us to remain in a calm state.

The other common places where people get good ideas are when they are in bed, or travelling. There is a reason for this as all of this activities are rather relaxed and in a sense passive. In regards to travel I would not be surprised if public transport allowed for greater freedom of creativity than driving a car, simply as you don’t really have to concentrate on anything in particular on public transport, whereas when driving you have to watch the road.

So the saying often used for where ideas often strike is known as the three b’s: bath, bed and bus. Here’s what http://www.banzai-institute.com/0710bbb.html has to say about the concept:

“There is a term sometimes used at the Banzai Institute: The three Bs, meaning the Bus, the Bath, and the Bed. That is where the greatest discoveries are made in science. When one is at his most relaxed, her most receptive, that is when a foreign consciousness, a "stray bullet" as B. Banzai calls it, may pop into one's head.”

I certainly notice that the other big place for me to get ideas is when I try and get to sleep. A useful tip is to have pen and paper near the bed in preparation for any ideas so that you can write them down and forget about them, thus allowing you to get back to sleep. Still, showers seem the most effective for me personally. Maybe I have some special affinity with them? Maybe it’s that I like being clean? I also find the sound of spraying water quite peaceful, it sort of drones out the other sounds of life and takes away its stresses, helping me to reflect peacefully and mull over any problems or questions I might have.

So maybe next time you’re struggling to write an academic report or an essay or something you should have a good look at the question and then go and have a shower! Who knows, maybe you’ll calm down a bit and your subconscious will just solve it for you. Wouldn’t that be nice? I hope we as a society do more research into the subconscious, it’s fascinating. Until we know more however, I might just have to live in the bathroom.

1 comment:

Leo said...

I had a similar thought on this:

Does Water Help The Creative Process

My take on it is that we all have a spot we can relax in. For some it's laying out in the sun. For others, it's zoning out with headphones on. For me, it's water. Whether the tub, a lake, or the shower, I do my best thinking when surrounded by water.

I think everyone should try to find that space. Harnessing your creative energy can make a huge difference in how much joy ou bring into your life, and the lives of others.

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