Before Christmas, I came across a very interesting study from the University of Kansas that suggested our creativity shoots up when we put down our phones and tablets and spend some quality time with nature.
For me, the study – the first of many in this area, no doubt – confirmed what I had already suspected: our brains need a break from the infomania culture our lives revolve around today.
By funny coincidence not long after reading the study, I went travelling in New Zealand, with my iPhone phone off and only intermittent web-access. Instead of looking down, I found myself looking up at stunning mountain ranges, at dirt tracks I was determined to hike up despite my burning lungs and achy knees. My eyes stopped hopping over things like the do on the screen, like some bizarre game of digital hopscotch and began to focus, really focus, on the words of the crime novels I like to devour on holiday, on the moments and the images I want to remember for the rest of my life. Slowly, as the days went by, the urge to check my phone, my emails, blah, blah, ebbed into a calm nothingness and for the first time in a long time, I was wholly in the one place, mind, body and spirit.
When I arrived home, I barely glanced at my phone except to turn it on. I had been limiting my online time by priority – work first, fun a dim second – but now, I’m even more ruthless. I dip in but I don’t get stuck. I enjoy the engagement of social media – but then I go outside, pick up a book or even just turn the damn thing off. And it’s funny because very often when it comes to work, the ideas I’ve been trying to formulate or the words I’m trying to find pop into my head more often than not when I’m not at my desktop but when I’m running, laughing or even just lazing in the silence with a cup of tea. In my experience, giving your mind a rest is the very thing that wakes it up. Go figure – and then go outside.