Eureka! He screamed and ran out of the bathroom naked down the streets of Syracuse chanting the word to meet the King who challenged him to find the solution to a problem and only after stating his solution did he realize he was as naked as a jaybird.
That is the story of Archimedes and the birth of the Archimedes’ principle.
As funny as the scene described above may seem, it describes a feeling that some of us have felt at some point in our lives. After struggling to figure out the solution to a problem all day, we may find that the solution drops onto our palms as we enter the bathroom to shower and retire for the night, and out of sheer excitement, it may not be surprising to jump out of the shower to enjoy our Eureka moment and document our solution for fear we may lose it.
Perhaps you’ve engaged in shower thinking before, or have had someone you know to experience it. This article aims to explore what it means and why it occurs.
SHOWER THOUGHTS – WHISPERS FROM ANGELS?
In its most basic form, shower thinking could be described as thinking done in the shower.
Beyond that, however, the same effect of thinking done in the shower is felt when one engages in activities like exercising, nature walks, or meditation. This was revealed in a study carried out and published in the Journal of Creative Behaviour.
A glance on a shower-thought subreddit on Reddit shows that while these thoughts may be associated with solution finding, some have described engaging in shower thinking that does not necessarily solve a problem but may just be positive or negative thinking, or sometimes, just random thoughts.
But what is it in the showers that force our brains to become geniuses, even if for a moment? Do these showers hold angels that secretly whisper into our ears while we bathe?
One of the factors that make us engage in shower thinking is our brain, or rather the activities that go on in the brain.
In a study published in Scientific American, it was shown that Dopamine levels influence creativity. Higher dopamine levels improved creativity while lower levels reduced it.
The observation was that certain events that make us feel great and relaxed such as taking a warm shower, exercising, or driving home after a long day increased the dopamine level in the brain. It is no wonder that beautiful ideas are born in the middle of a hot shower.
Dopamine, however, is just one of the 3 ingredients that work together to birth a new idea or a solution to a problem in the shower.
Another vital ingredient in the mix is Distraction.
In his study of the link between distraction and creativity, Harvard researcher Carson showed that distraction may often be needed to get a creative burst or birth the solution to a problem. And what better way to be distracted than to get a warm shower?
This period allows the ideas in your head to incubate, allowing the subconscious mind to work on the problem and to plant whatever it has worked on right into your conscious mind, giving you your “Eureka!” moment.
While those two ingredients may seem enough to cook up solutions and ideas, there is yet another crucial ingredient upon which ideas are conceived and Eureka moments are born.
A relaxed mind.
In his study on How to be Creative, Lehrer explains that when the mind is relaxed, we’re more likely to channel our attention inward as opposed to when it is focused. It is this inward direction that leads to valuable insight into a problem.
That is why when we lay on our beds after having just bathed with our smart devices turned off, we seem to hear those little voices in our heads that give us insight.
It is also why after becoming tipsy from a glass or two from some strong alcoholic drink, we find ourselves getting insight and solutions to problems we spent the day thinking about.
Given the foregoing, we see why we get bursts of insight when we take that warm shower or go for that workout session; they provide the 3 ingredients of creativity- Dopamine release, distraction, and mental relaxation.
But how can we effectively harness this ‘goldmine’?
How To Capture Creativity In The Shower
Creativity is better captured than optimized. It is better to grab a creative thought when it shows up than to try to force it to return when you need it.
Hence, all efforts should be made to grab it when it comes, lest it leaves as quickly as it came.
One such idea-capturing method is to keep a jotter with you at all times.
Given the volatility of great ideas and solutions, it is wise to keep a jotter with you at all times, especially at times when you least expect to get an idea.
Yes, this includes the shower!
Another great idea is to plan your day in a way that allows the subconscious mind to work on some ideas before they are used.
An example of this is before writing a blog post, make the research needed for the post during the early hours of the day, and at the end of the day after a warm shower and bout of shower thinking, settle down to write the blog post.
This would allow the subconscious mind to work on the needed information so that when you sit down to write, it presents its result to your conscious mind like a precooked meal waiting to be eaten.
Shower thinking is a gold mine to be tapped. From it, great scientific principles have been born, and by it, brilliant ideas will be conceived. And if at all it holds no other benefits, the hygiene of its user is guaranteed.