This post originally appeared on the Blacklight, our new newsletter for professionals.
In a continent crowded with picturesque landscapes, standing out isn’t easy. So when Finland created a marketing campaign in 2010 to boost tourism, it decided to tout a uniquely Finnish cultural trait: silence. (But, since the Finns are also super polite, the slogan is actually “Silence, please”. ) In today’s 24/7-connected culture, quiet is becoming a precious resource—much like clean water and clear air.
In fact, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton considers silence an endangered species. He defines real quiet not as an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. “I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential,” Hempton says.
The Benefits of Alone Time
Plenty of research points to the importance of solitude for calming our bodies and inspiring creativity. Once we turn off the pinging phone, social media, Flipboard, NPR updates, podcasts, YouTube, etc., our minds have a chance to rest and recharge.
Silence may feel uncomfortable at first. We’re so used to being surrounded by noise and receiving non-stop input. But when we tune out those outside influences, we become receptive to deeper thoughts and reflection. When you embrace the quiet, something magical happens.
The ideas start flowing, and solutions that have eluded you until now suddenly pop into your head. And it’s not just painters and novelists who can enjoy the creative thought and idea generation that solitude sparks.
In his memoir, “iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It,” Steve Wozniak makes a convincing argument for the importance of intellectual independence in the creative process:
Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me — they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone — best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee.
Solitude + Nature = Creative Bliss
By now you’ve guessed one of the best ways to boost creativity: spending time in nature. In 2012, neuroscientist David Strayer conducted a study of nature’s effects on 56 adults. After four days of backpacking in the mountains, disconnected from all technology, the subjects’ performance on a creative, problem-solving task increased by a full 50 percent.
Strayer’s research shows that the prefrontal cortex is less active when people are in a natural environment. Once immersed in “nature therapy,” your mind begins to sift through memories and explore random ideas and emotions.
“You let the prefrontal cortex rest, and all of a sudden these flashes of insight come to you,” Strayer says. “It supports creativity, positive well-being, reductions in stress. There are all kinds of reasons why it’s helpful.”
If you’re feeling the call of the wild, consider booking your next vacay in Finland—land of saunas, Northern Lights, and world-class solitude. It’s the ideal place to tune into the sound of quiet and recharge your creative soul.
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