How spending time in nature can unlock the creative process
Believe it or not, but some simple time out in nature can do wonders for the creative leadership process – and scientists agree.
An invite from Tim Smit
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Gift yourself some time alone in nature. That’s the invitation we gave to delegates at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool recently: to spend time alone outside, in nature, away from others and the lure of our phones.
It sounds easy, but most of us don’t do it very often. Dan, from the team, was speaking at the conference about the transformative powers of spending time in nature, particularly for people in the creative industries.
We asked people to get in touch with their experiences afterwards, and it was affirming to hear that it really does work. ‘For my truly creative mind to work well I need rest and stillness,’ wrote Jessica Ball from Creating Meaning. ‘Dan's talk inspired me to continue to make time for quality moments with nature.’
'For my truly creative mind to work well I need rest and stillness'
Lawrence Harmer of Solve Web Media and #SoulVenture got in touch to tell us that he's made some changes already. The talk reminded him that ‘I need to “disconnect to reconnect” to understand the bigger picture, so since then I have been on many mini wilderness solos exploring the cliffs, paddle-boarding round the coastline, and breaking my digital connection. My work has benefitted too, as I’ve recharged my batteries for my next projects while also re-fuelling my soul.’
In this endless summer you probably don’t need a reminder to get outside, but it’s worth reflecting on how it can have real value for both your personal wellbeing and your professional head, and is something to weave into your routine even when the sun goes in!
Three reasons to spend time in nature
Being immersed in nature can bring you inspiration to refresh personal creative processes and directly feed ideas into new projects. Cognitive psychologist David Strayer has reported real changes in people who’ve spent time in the wild, who said their thoughts were clearer, having disconnected and having experienced 'being in the moment' for a substantial amount of time. Those who spent three days backpacking in the wilderness performed 50% better on creative problem-solving. He calls it the ‘three-day effect’ (1).
‘I need to “disconnect to reconnect” to understand the bigger picture'
The benefits to mental and physical wellbeing of spending time in nature are well documented by science – ranging from a decrease in heart rates and cortisol levels to an increase in job satisfaction and self-esteem (2). But it’s amazing how easily we forget this, as we spend our days distracted by phones and computers.
Research by Exeter University (3) shows that just a short bout of time in a green space – even in inner cities – can improve people’s mood and cognitive functioning. So you don’t need to move to Cornwall to benefit!
Feelings of motivation are often hard to define and pin down, but many participants on our HotHouse programmes say they feel motivated to ‘change the world’ for the better. (Exactly what that ‘better’ is, is always the really interesting bit for us.)
Often, their motivation springs from the emotion ‘awe’. Research suggests that people who experience awe, for example standing under a waterfall or on top of a mountain, feel ‘smaller’ or ‘more humble’. Humility is strongly linked to empathy and the ability to see or feel things from the point of view of other living, and even non-living, things. It’s the perfect catalyst for connecting, and wanting to start doing things differently.
If you’re stuck in a rut, looking for inspiration, or want to update your creative process, a good place to start is to get outside and breathe some fresh air.
And if you want some help in going further, amidst a nurturing environment where you can kickstart that creative process with the support of others, join us on one of our creative leadership programmes here at the Eden Project. Both our Nature of Leadership programme in September and our special women’s leadership retreat in October are crafted to help you get back to nature and unlock that creativity.
- David Strayer, Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings
- Business Insider UK
- Green spaces may boost wellbeing for city dwellers