07 Sep Mindfulness vs Mindlessness: which helps creativity more?
Mindfulness vs Mindlessness – we can spend time in both states, but only one helps us move forwards – the other maintains the status quo, even if we don’t really want to be there! We all know the symptoms of being mindless – running on autopilot, lots of mental chatter about things we’ve forgotten to do, things we wish we hadn’t done, our inability to do the things we know we should be doing that our good for us, then doing the exact opposite without thinking. It is a comfortable, if exasperating place to be, but it is familiar, and there are times where we’ll tolerate the familiar because change can be exhausting. The Harvard Business Review has an article that goes into the differences between mindfulness vs. mindlessness in more depth.
What about its opposite state of mindlessness, mindfulness? Here we can get respite from the constant mental chatter, we can let our minds drift in new directions and free associate. Even a few minutes of mindfulness can reveal ideas and possibilities that don’t stand a chance of emerging when our inner chatter, inner and imagined outer critics hold sway over our thinking. When we are mindful we can start to see patterns emerge in the way we think – helpful ones as well as more negative ones – and ironically it can make us both more analytic and more free flowing and relaxed in our thinking. Ellen Langer has been researching mindfulness for several decades. Toy can read more in this article.
So how do these two states, mindfulness and mindlessness, affect our ability to create? Creating can be both a calm and serene process or an excites and slightly frenetic process, but seldom does it occur when we are stuck in a place of mindlessness. When we let go of being mindless, relax, breathe, and become calm, we are much more likely to feel inspired to create, to get up and do something. We may move into a surge of creating that looks frenetic from the outside, but behind it is a sense of purpose. When we are being mindless, tamping down unpleasant thoughts and feelings, it is hard for new ideas or thoughts to emerge. At the same time, doodling is often the inadvertent outcome of mindlessness – at some level our creative self is determined to be heard – and while our minds are shut down, our creativity can bubble through. Our hands take advantage of the lack of attention to do what they wanted to do anyway! Mindfulness clearly wins this race, but mindless creating is still creating!
So for me, making time each day to be mindful is becoming increasingly important to my ability to create. We’ve all heard the saying that doing the same thing but expecting different results is the definition of insanity, so after spending too much of my life mindlessly, and actively pursuing mindfulness. Will you join me on this journey?