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According to scientists, mindless tasks – like showering – aren’t so mindless after all.

| By Antonia Day | Journal

The Reason Why Your "Shower Thoughts" Are Often Your Best Thoughts

According to scientists, mindless tasks – like showering – aren’t so mindless after all.

If you’ve ever had an epiphany halfway through a shower, you’re not alone. Maybe it's an existential musing, a mental grocery list, or you suddenly realise the answer to a cryptic crossword clue you've been stuck on. Introspective, and sometimes humorous trains of thought seem to be a universal experience when we hop in the shower.

Research led by Zachary Irving, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, found that creative ideas are often generated during low-impact activities such as walking or showering.

It was through this study that Dr Irving and his team discovered that "mind wandering leads to more creative ideas, but only during moderately engaging activities." Thus making actions like showering and walking, perfect opportunities to come up with some of your most brilliant thoughts.

Below, we look into different types of thinking, and how we can use these alternative methods – like shower thoughts – to our advantage in everyday life.

Types of thinking

According to associate professor of psychology at the University of Queensland, Dr Alan Pegna, our brains have different ways of thinking to illicit creative thoughts. These thinking methods are called: divergent thinking, and convergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is the creative-led process, where you’re able to come up with many different ideas that generate more thoughts and further the creative process – helping generate new solutions to problems.

Convergent thinking is your decision-making process, which helps you select the most logical/reasonable solution to a problem.

"When you are in a situation, such as having a shower or going for a walk in the forest, you essentially stop being focused on a goal … [and] your mind starts to wander," Dr Pegna said. It’s through these low-impact activities where our minds are able to think divergently, and conjure up some of our finest thoughts.

Starting in school with solving equations, and answering questions with informed responses, the ability to think cognitively and solve problems has been ingrained in us from an early age. “Schoolwork is about focusing on something and learning the answers," said Dr Pegna.

Even upon entering the workforce, cognitive thinking still reigns, as we continue to solve problems, and think logically to get work done for our employers, "most people are in situations where they have to focus and think in this convergent way," Dr Pegna said.

But luckily for us, we can still apply divergent thinking techniques in our everyday lives and still reap the benefits.

How to use divergent thinking to your advantage

Whether you’ve come head to head with a problem that needs solving at school, work, or home, actively engaging in divergent thinking "has positive effects, and it helps in problem-solving," said Dr Pegna.

Next time you're faced with a problem or would like to gain creative insight, follow these steps to engage in divergent thinking.

1. Remove yourself from your workspace.

2. Partake in a mindless activity such as showering or walking.

3. Begin to think about the problem you're trying to solve – no thought is too crazy!

4. Keep your phone or a pen and paper close by to jot down your ideas.

5. Let the creative juices flow!

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