Psychology TodayWe’ve all had those “aha” moments — when a solution to a problem suddenly comes out of the blue, when we weren’t even trying. Like me, I’m sure you’ve wished you could make those moments happen more often.

Well, it turns out we can.

A recent article by David Rock in Psychology Today explains how. He sets out four conditions that conduce to the arising of creative ideas.

  1. Quiet your mind. Insights tend to come from distant memories and forgotten associations. They’re the quieter, weaker thoughts that can too easily get crowded out in the din of our much louder everyday thoughts. So quieting the mind allows us to “hear” them more easily.
  2. Focus inward. It also helps to have our attention on our inner world – like being open to any subtle mental images or emotions that arise – rather than what’s happening outside you. This is needed in addition to the quiet mind, above.
  3. Be positive. Insights happen when we’re feeling reasonably happy, as well as curious, and genuinely interested in something. Anxiety and frustration, on the other hand, create tunnel vision. So the more open and relaxed we feel, the better the chances of something different to emerge.
  4. Make less effort. Grappling with a problem head-on tends to track our thinking into old familiar ruts. Creativity happens when we step back and allow something different to arise. Our minds have far more capacity for creativity than we think!

I was very happy to see this article because it validates what I’ve seen for myself as the benefit of meditation and quiet contemplation. But even if you aren’t a regular meditator, I think applying these principles can take us a long way. In my opinion, it’s not just about fostering those once-in-a-while flash of new ideas. When we live this way as much as possible, it starts to affect our personalities, too. In a lot of ways, these principles parallel what the Buddha taught us about becoming kinder and happier people. It’s definitely in line with how I try to live my live.

You can read the full article at Psychology Today.