Creativity is a big word. It’s difficult to quantify and it’s something we all need, but it’s not so easy to summon on a whim. Whether you’re a designer, a writer, a marketer, or an artist, chances are you’ll need a burst of creativity at some point in your near future.

Every day, someone shares a new article with tips on how to find your creativity — but just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you. That’s why we’ve pulled together this list of 8 strategies, all backed by research and at least somewhat proven to do what they say, to help you connect with your inner creative and make something amazing today.

1. Go for a Walk

Boy walks with beagle puppy by Soloviova Liudmyla
Boy walks with beagle puppy by Soloviova Liudmyla

Although we all wish we could go on a springtime stroll with our pets in the middle of the day, it turns out that the act of walking, not necessarily the environment, is what matters when it comes to creativity. In a study conducted at Stanford, researchers found that creativity levels were higher when a person was walking, and continued to be high even when they sat back down after a walk. Being indoors, outdoors, on a treadmill, or on a sidewalk didn’t make much difference to the participants — all that mattered was that they were up and moving around, rather than sitting.

Researchers found that walking was most beneficial for tasks that required a fresh perspective, rather than tasks that needed users to focus and find a single answer. So if you’re trying to stay focused to find a logical solution or to complete a project, sitting might be your best bet. But if you need to be creative, get up and start walking.

2. Mentally Remove Yourself from the Problem

Airplane and modern buildings by chungking
Airplane and modern buildings by chungking

It can be difficult to focus on a problem, or to come up with a creative solution, when you’re working on your own project. Creativity often comes much more easily when you’re being creative on behalf of someone else — and it’s much easier to think up new ideas if the problem is further away or more imperceptible. When you mentally remove yourself, think about the problem as if it belongs to someone else, or as if it’s many months down the road. You’ll then be able to approach the situation from a more refreshed perspective and come up with new, abstract ideas.

3. Let in a Little Noise

There is such a thing as too much noise, but researchers at the University of Illinois found that letting in a little bit can actually be great for creativity. 70 decibels of ambient noise seems to be just the right amount, as the participants became more distracted and creativity declined at 85 decibels. Rather than hiding away in a silent room the next time you’re working on a big idea, you might be better off embracing the background noise at a local coffee shop or park.

4. Keep Your Desk Messy

Flat design top view of table with coffee by Ozerina Anna
Flat design top view of table with coffee by Ozerina Anna

Being neat will help you eat healthier, be more generous, and act conventionally, but it’s not going to help your creativity. To be more creative, according to a study from the Association for Psychological Science, you need to embrace clutter. Working in a messy environment encourages people to try new things and generate new ideas, and according to the study, the location or type of room didn’t even matter — just the level of untidiness.

5. Make Time for Meditation

There’s been much debate over the years about whether or not meditation actually has an effect on creativity. That’s why researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition focused specifically on two types of meditation, focused-attention and open-monitoring, when conducting their tests.

The results showed that meditation did help to improve creativity, but that the impact varied by type. Open-monitoring meditation — where participants open their breath, open their mind, and expand their consciousness — had the most impact.

6. Look at Something Blue

Abstract painting of blue sea waves by maxim ibragimov
Abstract painting of blue sea waves by maxim ibragimov

Color theory is one of our favorite topics, and in this particular study, the University of British Columbia specifically researched red and blue — two of the colors that are most frequently used in advertising. According to their results, red is best for when someone needs to focus or pay attention to details, and blue is needed when it’s time to be creative.

Because blue is often associated with tranquil, peaceful environments like the ocean, it allows people to relax and feel more comfortable creating. In fact, participants in the study produced twice as many creative results when looking at something blue as they did when looking at something red. If your job requires frequent creativity, it might be worth hanging up a blue-toned poster or keeping a few blue items on your desk.

7. Be Prepared When Creativity Strikes

This tip is less about how to be creative, and more about how to use the creativity you have, when it wants to present itself. Studies show that creativity comes at the least optimal times possible, be it in the shower, on the way to work, or in the middle of a presentation. You may not always be able to drop everything and jot down your ideas, but stay prepared with Aqua Notes, apps like Evernote and Wunderlist, and an always-there notebook that will let you capture creativity as often as you can.

8. Embrace Exhaustion

Beautiful gray house cat yawning by Morgenstjerne
Beautiful gray house cat yawning by Morgenstjerne

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl depends on your circadian rhythms. And as it turns out, you’re likely to be more innovative during your “off-peak times” — evening hours if you’re a morning person, and in the morning if you’re a night owl. Researchers from Michigan State University and Albion College found that your predisposition toward distraction during those “off-peak” hours could actually help with your creativity. As your mind wanders and you become less focused, you’re also likely to think of better ideas.

Do you have a secret formula for creativity? Tell us about it in the comments below or tweet us your favorite creativity tips @Shutterstock.

Top image: Abstract photo of birds against water surface by Milosz_G