Take a hike
Yes, you’ve heard it before, but going for a walk or a run (or even a gentle amble to the nearest Paleolithic fruit tree or coffee machine) can get your brain moving, too. You may not solve the problem that’s on your mind at that moment, but according to a Stanford study, walking boosts divergent thinking: the free-roaming, idea-generating component of creative thought (source: The Guardian).
Give your brain some space
When Stone Age Man got home from a day’s hunting woolly mammoth with a sharpened stick, he’d like nothing better than to sit down and stare at the fire while Mrs Stone Age Man got busy cooking the kill. Some say that collapsing onto the sofa to watch TV in the evening is much the same – and it is, but only up to a point. TV doesn’t still your thoughts, it stimulates them (but not necessarily in the direction you want).
Instead, look for ways to still your thinking or let your mind wander where it wants to. Meditation and mindfulness are becoming increasingly popular, and there are a gazillion (ish) apps out there to help you tune the world out for a little while. Some exercise can have a similar effect. Even better, when you’re warm and happy – such as in bath, like Archimedes, or relaxed by your cave fire – you get a dopamine boost that increases your chances of having a eureka moment. Here’s the science, if you’re interested.
Share stories that make a difference
Once you’ve eaten your delicious slice of mammoth (or a few dried-up nuts on the not-so-good days), you’d gather round the campfire with your fellow Stone Agers and talk about the events of the day. Spin a few yarns, perhaps, or retell tales that have been passed between generations. Maybe you’d get into an argument about the best way to locate and sneak up on prey (which lends a whole new meaning to organic search). And what else can we do with that wheel thing?
Human beings are now better connected than ever. Which means our ability to learn, share and discuss is no longer limited to our own tribe – we can all travel through space and time without a TARDIS. We can read the exact words of the Ancient Greeks, or the latest article in the Wall Street Journal just moments after publication. We can have global discussions via webinars and video conferencing, or watch a TED Talk from anywhere in the world at any time of day.
A final thought
There’s no better quotation to end with than this, from Chris Anderson’s book, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.
“Every meaningful element of human progress has happened only because humans have shared ideas with each other and then collaborated to turn those ideas into reality.”
– Chris Anderson, Head of TED