The power of shower thinking

Lacking inspiration? A shower could be the solution. Some of the brightest people put their great ideas down to a shower epiphany - a sudden moment of clarity through the soap suds and steam.

But what is it about this seemingly innocuous part of our daily routine that stimulates creativity?

They key is that you’re relaxed. The shower is a place where you feel comfortable and safe, and the warm water and aroma of your various lotions and potions ensure a comforting and soothing experience.

It’s also one of the rare occasions when you’re alone, without interruption. You have to leave your phone behind for risk of never being able to use it again and the door lock keeps the outside world at bay. The only thing that can incumber your shower thinking is the hot water running out.

By this point in your life showering has hopefully become second nature. In a space that’s completely familiar to you, you don’t have to actively think about the washing process. Your mind can begin to daydream.

Now here’s the science. Letting your mind wander relaxes the prefrontal cortex - the brain’s command center - and switches on the rest of your brain’s default mode network (DMN) as you unconsciously think about yourself and others, remember the past and plan for the future. With your cortex loosened up and your DMN switched on, you can make new, creative connections your conscious mind would otherwise dismiss, and these help you to solve the big issues swimming around your head.

That's why it's sometimes hard to resolve a problem you're thinking about intently - when you’re deeply focused on a task, your brain is more likely to censor unconventional solutions. When you stop fixating on it your unconscious gets to work and creativity flows.

Timing is also a deciding factor in the power of shower thinking. Most of us wash first thing in the morning or last thing at night - when you’re most tired. According to recent research, that’s our creative peak. Sleepiness puts you in the same mind-wandering state as total relaxation when your mind is less likely to block the unusual thoughts that make great ideas possible.

So when you're next stumped by one of life's many questions or you just need a bit of inspiration for an essay, jump in the shower and let your mind wander - you could just stumble upon the solution to your problem.