Why do we get some of our best creative ideas in the shower?

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Do you have your best creative ideas unexpectedly, like during a shower? You are not alone.

And why that is the case? There’s scientific background to it. Let’s dive into the most interesting organ of humans’ body: the brain.

What’s going on in the brain during a creative process?

Reducing the executive attention network’s activity can boost creative activity (Jung, Mead, Carrasco, & Flores, 2013). You guessed it, during a hot shower that’s what’s going on in the brain

The brain area: dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is responsible for basic cognitive processes such as planning for the future, organization, and regulation. Research shows that damage to this area is associated with more successful and insightful creative problem solving. Additionally, focusing on only one task is another way to deactivate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Thus, an activity like a soothing bath tub time, will help you to deactivate this brain area and that’s why you will have lots of creative ideas.

Medial prefrontal cortex another brain area that is responsible for making associations between contexts, events and, emotional responses: creativity. This ares is not usually activated during daily tasks. During a soothing shower, our brain is not engaged in any daily activity, there is no need for high levels of executive functioning, thus there is more opportunity for association making. As a result of these processes, shower time gives us tons of new creative ideas!

(Liu et al., 2012; Jung, Mead, Carrasco, & Flores, 2013).

Shower: Dopamine release and creativity

During a relaxing hot shower, individuals have higher levels of dopamine release which is associated with higher levels of creativity. Consequently when you are in a relaxed state with the support of soothing hot water and away from daily stressors such as your to do list or your e-mails, you are being more creative.

Realizing the subconscious insights

By changing the task you are doing, like having a bath time, you are having a chance to realize your insights. Focusing on one task or one problem for too long will inhibit the thinking process thus inhibit our actual insights about the topic. When we are disconnected from the outer world, our brain will be able to focus on creative insights. During the day, these insights has been unconsciously shaping in your and hot shower will be like taking a step back to get a perspective that’s already there waiting to be found.

Letting your mind wander

Changing your focused attention, intentionally distracting yourself with an undemanding task, like a long shower, is the perfect moment to let your mind wander and support the incubation period of your creative thoughts and ideas. According to research by Smallwood et al. (2012) maximizing mind wandering by engaging in simple external tasks will improve creative problem solving.

In a nutshell

Relaxing, dopamine release, being away from daily tasks, decreasing executive functioning, focusing on your subconscious insights and, letting your mind wander: Soothing shower with lots of creative ideas.

Fun Fact

Our right brain is not the only area that is responsible for creativity. Recent research finds that the brain has 3 different pathways for creativity (Bressier & Meno, 2010).

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