Johan Marais-Piper

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The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is the term for when you learn about something new, or it comes to your attention, then all of a sudden you see it everywhere.

This is exactly what happened when I came across the idea that walking is good for creative thinking. I first heard it in a podcast three days ago, then a TED talk with a similar topic popped up last night, then I remember it in a book I read last week. The gist of it being that going for a stroll kick-starts one’s creative juices, shifting an idle mind to a more dynamic state.

Baader-Meinhof and the universe wanted me to take this idea for a test drive. So this morning my wife and I thought that while our kids were being babysat (heaven) that we should go for a stroll on the bike track. I had high hopes.

You know, the thing with having children under six (and we have two of them) is that you have very little time to yourself. In fact, kids nap times are the best time. You get a moment’s silence to respect the peace of mind we used to have.

We are either on and play games, feed and change nappies, or we are off, exhausted and surrendering into the soft embrace of the couch. Often falling asleep to the sweet lullaby of a light Tasmanian Pinot. Maybe we have a drinking problem. Anyway, you are either entertaining or you are unwinding. One is rarely bored. I miss being bored.

Apparently, and here’s another idea for you, being bored is also good for the mind. It’s great for creativity, don’t just take my word β€” there are studies on it. Boredom can stimulate creativity and problem-solving by letting the mind to daydream. A luxury my wife and I don’t have anymore.

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So this is how our walk went this morning… we left for a stroll and at first talked small talk (while catching our breath) about needing to wee already, or how our front garden needs mowing. A kilometre in and we started looking at other people’s yards and house projects and I felt my first synapse firing.

“Huh, I wonder what house projects are a metaphor for.”

I noticed a mother bouncing a baby on her lap as she looked on to watch her husband build a pool in their already crowded back yard. “Does he want a perfect family life by having an amazing back yard, when all his wife wants is to spend more time together with their young baby?”. I know, not super profound, but I was looking to peel under surface level observations.

By the halfway point we already started to play games on who would say “hello” first between ourselves and other walkers passing by. We started noticing things and playing silly games. I even tried some slam poetry. My wife didn’t approve. Piew! Piew! The synapses firing like spark plugs.

It was amazing to just be outside. In silence. Not needing to feed a constantly hungry toddler in the stroller, or talk to an attention seeking boy on his scooter. We sought to fill the warm, comforting silence instead with the ideas that were bubbling under the surface.

By the time we finished our walk we had two sets of sweaty armpits and a handful of novel business and life ideas. The former left us questioning our choice to shower before the walk, the latter confirming the idea that walks are a gateway to creativity.

Note to self. If you can’t be bored, be moving. It works.

Don’t take my word for it. Give it a try.

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