Get up from your desk, leave your cellphone in your office, and take a ten-minute walk every few hours. The effects on creative thought are amazing. Many of history’s most creative thinkers and innovators used daily walks as a way to slow the brain and find new ideas.
• Philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard found his daily walks so inspiring he often hurried back to his desk and started writing, still wearing his hat and carrying his walking stick or umbrella.
• Inventor Nikola Tesla’s idea for alternating electric currents came to him in a flash of inspiration while he was out on a leisurely stroll. So not to forget his idea, he used his walking stick to draw a picture in the dirt, explaining to his partner how the currents might work.
• Writer Charles Dickens religiously took three-hour, twelve mile walks every afternoon. What he observed on these strolls often found its way into his writing.
• Russian composer Tchaikovsky made do with a two-hour walk but wouldn’t return a minute early, convinced that cheating himself of the full 120 minutes would make him ill.
• Beethoven took lengthy strolls after lunch, always carrying a pencil and paper with him in case inspiration struck, as it often did.
• Composer and pianist Erik Satie did the same on his long strolls from Paris to his working-class suburb, stopping under streetlamps to jot down notions that arose on his journey. It is rumored that when those lamps were turned off during the war years, his productivity declined as well.
Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844–1900) the famous philosopher once wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” a tradition that goes all the way back to ancient Greece and the Peripatetic school, literally the walking school, founded by followers of Aristotle.
A recent study by Mary Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University determined that creativity levels are consistently and significantly higher for those who walk for as little as five minutes before engaging in problem solving compared to those who do not.
We might think it’s a waste of time to interrupt work to take a short stroll, but it’s actually an effective way to unleash our creativity.