Why Your Best Ideas Come to You in the Shower

Before I sat down to write this post about why your best ideas come to you in the shower, I took a shower so I could think about it.

Think I’m joking? I’m not.

The thing is, a lot of my best ideas come to me in the shower. And I’m not alone. Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist, conducted a study that found that 72% of people get some of their best creative ideas in the shower. In fact, people often feel more creative in their showers than they do at work. 

But what is it about a shower, specifically, that gets the creative juices flowing?

Why your best ideas come to you in the shower

There are several things about the environment of a shower that make it very conducive to creative thinking. 

You feel relaxed.

First and foremost, showers are relaxing. They are warm (at least, mine are!), comfortable, and pleasant. When you’re relaxed, you feel safe. Your brain isn’t thinking about ways to keep you alive (Psycho exceptions aside), which means your mind is allowed to wander more freely.

You allow subconscious thinking.

As a result of that relaxed state, your subconscious is allowed to show up a little more. That can be key to creative thinking and problem solving. In fact, some research points to the idea that a so-called “incubation period” can be extremely useful if you’ve been actively working on or thinking about a problem for a while. The active work has planted the problem in your brain, and when you step away from the active work and allow your subconscious to keep working on it in the background, you’re more likely to come up with different ideas or think of the problem in a different way. 

It is a non-judgmental environment.

No one is going to laugh at your shower thoughts—even your most ridiculous ones—because no one is hearing them. Even you, yourself, are less likely to judge your own thoughts because you are so relaxed and just letting your mind wander. When you don’t have to fear that judgment, your brain isn’t worried about coming up with “stupid” ideas; it just comes up with ideas! That is creative thinking at its finest.

You can’t do anything else.

When you are sitting at a desk trying to be creative, there are any number of things that might distract you—your phone, social media, your phone, email, clutter, and your phone, to name a few. (Did I mention your phone?)

One of the reasons why your best ideas come to you in the shower is that these outside distractions aren’t around. You can’t stand in the shower and mindlessly scroll, or answer an email, or go grab that package that just got delivered. With fewer distractions, your brain is allowed to follow interesting paths instead of jumping from one thing to the next every couple minutes.

How to use this to your advantage

So now that we know why your best ideas come to you in the shower, we can start to think about how to make the most of that fact. Here are some ideas.

Take a shower break.

Need a little creative pick-me-up? Jump in the shower. This is especially easy in a work-from-home environment. In fact, if you work from home, you might want to save your daily shower time for a moment when your creativity needs a boost.

Have something nearby to write on.

A lot of shower ideas are simply gateways to bigger and better ideas, but every once in a while, you hit on something that you really want to hold on to. That’s why it might be useful to keep something either in or near your shower that you can write on—a whiteboard, notebook, etc. Yes, you’ll have to work out the logistics to keep everything dry, but trust me, it will be worth it to hold on to those golden ideas.

Take a problem into the shower with you.

Before you step into the shower, think deliberately about something you’d like your subconscious brain to work on. Whether it’s a personal or professional issue, your shower time can help you work through it. So get it to the front of your mind and then mull it over while you relax in the shower.

Create a pleasant environment.

Relaxation is one of the biggest reasons why showers inspire some of the best ideas, so it’s important to create a shower environment that is especially relaxing. That might mean adding music, treating yourself to luxurious soap, organizing all your bottles and shower things so everything is nice and neat, adding a non-slip mat, investing in a better shower head, etc. Think about what you need to really enjoy your shower, and make it happen!

Make time to shower.

Many people see their shower as just something they have to do every day. It gets squeezed into the daily routine without much thought or purpose, and that can cause you to rush through it. But what if you set aside time for your showers? What if you scheduled a solid chunk of time for you to get that relaxing time you need? You are showering anyway, so just extend it a little bit. Make more time for it, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the shower’s many creative benefits.

Apply “shower power” in other ways.

The reasons why your best ideas come to you in the shower can be applied in other ways too. Even outside of the shower, you can do things to relax yourself (rest, walk, nap, get a massage); invite subconscious thought (meditate, write in your journal); create a non-judgmental environment (surround yourself with open-minded people, practice catching and changing your self-judging thoughts); and eliminate distractions (turn off your phone, use noise-cancelling headphones). Applying these same principles in any way will help boost your creativity, even if taking an actual shower isn’t an option at the moment.

It’s true that showers create an ideal environment for creative thinking and problem solving. Now that you know why your best ideas come to you in the shower, take advantage of it! Use these principles to your benefit, and put that “shower power” to work.

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