Creativity Series: Just Do It! {2}

It's time for our weekly Creativity column on decor8! Last week we discussed mind mapping and some of us went back to childhood for ideas and inspiration. I remember hearing once that sometime you have to go backwards in order to continue moving ahead. Interesting thought, which is why I think mind mapping is pretty important. Did you get a chance to pull together your own mind map? Do you feel it helped you? Did some of your childhood interests surprise you?

In trying to decide what to talk about today, I imagined myself feeling totally uninspired and drained... What do I usually do on days when I feel anything but creative? You know, when ideas are not flowing, one feels bored to death with work or life in general.  It happens to us all. How do I begin to pull myself out of a creative rut? How do I stop negative thoughts from taking root and ruining my day?

Exercise. Whether it's stretching for 20 minutes or hitting the gym, the positive impact of regular exercise on physiological functions has been extensively studied and confirmed -- Exercise boosts creativity!

A simple walk around the block is refreshing and a good way to clear your mind. If I'm outdoors I like to focus on observing instead of participating by paying attention to the sights, sounds, colors, and patterns around me. Sometimes I bring along a camera or a recording device to capture a part of my walk that I find inspiring, whether it's a building or a conversation that I heard in passing. It doesn't have to be a sweaty gym routine. A simple walk is nice. Just getting outside to be alone and absorb my surroundings is often all it takes. And I always make sure that I turn off my cell - it's ME time.

Many successful creative people exercise regularly to recharge and shift their thinking from the negative to the positive. They are first to admit that they have control over their emotions and can choose whether or not to feel bad, uninspired, etc. They take responsibility for their feelings and decide to feel good and if they don't, they do whatever they can to make that feeling happen in a safe and healthy way.

Whether it's Yoga, a walk around the block, or a sweat-a-thon at the gym I know first hand that creativity flourishes when exercise is part of my daily routine. When I was in Germany for 5 months, I walked 3-4 miles daily and during that time creative ideas flowed like crazy, I was super productive, and I exceeded a lot of the goals that I had set for myself each week. It was amazing, what a high when you feel 100% in control of your life and creative ideas come naturally! Now that I'm back in the snowy, freezing New Hampshire countryside with no sidewalks and strapped inside of a car all of the time, I walk 4 miles a week (2 weekly gym visits) and I'm not feeling nearly as creative. I see a connection between creativity and exercise in my own life. Maybe you can think about your daily routine. I'm certainly going to make changes, I started this morning when I went to the gym and as a result I feel very creative and alert today.

But enough about me. I thought it would encourage us all to speak to an Interior Designer based in Manhattan Beach, CA who is also a blogger and who keeps her creativity high through regular exercise. Megan Arquette authors the blog Beach Bungalow 8 and exercises 5-6 days a week (an hour daily) despite her busy schedule. Ideally she'll do 30-40 minutes of cardio (running or swimming) and 30 minutes of weights during a single session. Megan wants to eventually fit in road biking or stand-up paddle  boarding (standing on a long wide surfboard while paddling) into her future routines. Go, Megan!

decor8: You're an Interior Designer and blogger who apparently loves to exercise but I'm dying to know... did you ever hate it and if so, how did you motivate yourself to change? Megan: I only hate it when I haven't been disciplined, taken a week off and then know it's going to get worse before it gets better. I've always fed myself the line that "even a slow, 20 minutes of running is better than nothing". Once I'm out there, moving, zen-ing out, I'm always so thankful.

Holly: Let's say you are blogging, or really into your design work and you notice that you've skipped exercise how do you handle that? Megan: That's really about making excuses. I can, realistically, always carve out 30 minutes to do some kind of workout. If I need to brainstorm, or I'm stuck on an idea, exercise provides the perfect time to allow the mind to 'still' itself and the creativity to get flowing.

Holly: What are some foods that help boost your creativity and make you feel great? Megan: I need lots of protein, so I always have string cheese, turkey or hard boiled eggs in my fridge. I love cooking, I'm not that skilled, but I love creating something for someone and sitting down to share it. We were recently given a tagine. Not knowing what to do with this beautiful, conical, cooking vessel, I researched some Middle Eastern recipes that called for all sorts of combinations of exotic spices and proteins. Cooking is such a fun, fruitful and creative process. Holly: If you belong to a gym how do you motivate yourself to go? Megan: Well, I actually like going to the gym, I've never really needed motivation. I get more done when I'm there. But I will try and mix it up a bit by taking classes. I've input the classes that I like on my phone's calendar with an alarm that sounds 2 hours before. This way, I can wrap up what I'm doing and get my mind readied for a good hour of hard work.

Megan Arquette, Interior Designer.

Holly: What are some exercise tips that you'd like to share with those currently not involved in a routine? Megan: Don't over do it in the beginning, you'll become discouraged. No excuses. If you miss one day, go a bit longer the next few days. Keep at it and you will see change. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Don't look in the mirror and beat yourself up. Love your body, no matter what it 'appears' to be ( believe me when I say these things, I've been there. I gained over 50 pounds with each of my pregnancies so the I know what it feels like to want to just give up before you begin) Also, go buy something you look good in and feel good wearing at the gym. Even if it's a great pair of running shoes. The ego boost is priceless.

I'm happy that we discussed exercise this week because I believe that once you have a regular routine you are in a better place to start thinking about goals and dreams. How does regular exercise help you to feel more creative? Do you have a regular routine? What do you do? Have you been making excuses to not exercise and feel badly about it? Have you ever connected exercise to creativity? Did this topic encourage you today?

(images from megan arquette)