For many people, a warm shower is one of their go-to activities when they want to refresh and relax. Some prefer showering as part of their morning ritual, while others do it to relax before bedtime. One way or another, showers offer so much more than physical comfort and freshness. They are also an amazing place to think.
Have you heard about the famous ancient mathematician Archimedes and his Eureka moment?
For a long time, Archimedes had been trying to solve the mathematical problem of determining whether the emperor’s crown was made of solid gold. After a few days of futile effort, he decided to take a bath, and the moment he entered the water, the solution became clear to him. As he had dipped into the tub, the level of water had risen, and some had spilled out. In a stroke of inspiration, he realized that the weight of the spilled water was the same as the volume of his body, and that was the solution to his problem. Upon realization, he jumped out of the tub naked and ran to the emperor’s castle, shouting: ‘Eureka!’
Perhaps you’ve also found that some of the greatest ideas and solutions to your most persistent problems appear to you as your mind is roaming and you’re relaxing in the shower. Have you ever wondered why that is so?
In this article, we’re going to explore why some of our best ideas and inspiring moments come to us in the shower. Is there truly something that magical––and creative––about it?
What’s Up With That (Shower)?
Research conducted by American cognitive scientist Scott Barry Kaufman determined that 72% of our best ideas come to us in the shower. Kaufman’s research was a big, multinational study, a fact which indicates that its findings are not likely to have a cultural component. People across different nations reported feeling more creative and inspired in their showers, compared to their workplaces, for example.
The main reason identified was that being in the shower provides us with a dopamine high, which is critical for creativity, speed of thought, problem-solving, and idea formation.
We release dopamine whenever we are in a relaxing and enjoyable situation, and the intimacy of our showers gives us exactly that and more. A shower is a place where we have the chance to be pleasantly distracted from our problems, like Archimedes.
The act of showering is automatic, we don’t need to focus on it to perform it, and this autopilot mode we switch on surrounded by the intimacy of warm water makes it almost meditative. Besides, most of us, on most occasions, go to the bathroom alone. Bathrooms are our oases of solitude, peace, and relaxation. A place to take a break from the world and engage in self-care.
These unique circumstances allow us to simply disengage or distance ourselves from the problem we’re fixating on. This freedom allows us to be susceptible enough to our own Eureka moment, so it hits us when we least expect it.
The Eureka! or Aha!Phenomenon
In psychology, the moment of sudden clarity, epiphany is often called the Aha! Phenomenon or insight, and it’s considered a regular stage of the problem-solving cycle.
Working on a problem or tackling a challenge can take many forms. It can also take place in the subconscious––we might have been feeling strange or funny for some time without actually processing it. When our mind wanders while we’re taking a shower, it may suddenly pop into our consciousness.
This helps us with another common challenge we face when we’re brainstorming solutions. Once we start thinking about some problem, we tend to get fixated on a certain approach. This can be due to many factors. For example, we might have faced a similar problem in the past, and now we’re picking the same set of strategies that worked before without realizing that the problems are not as comparable as we thought.
To brainstorm ideas and solutions to our problems, or gain any kind of meaningful insight about ourselves, we often need to distance ourselves from the situation and its circumstances. This is because when we become fixated on one approach to problem-solving, it can cloud our vision and stop us from seeing that there are many other possibilities.
Taking a shower provides us with that necessary break we need to distance ourselves from the problem and empty our minds. Our mind then gets a chance to consolidate and declutter everything and lead us to a new solution.
Why Is This Important?
Many of us don’t have enough time in the average day to just sit and let our minds wander. Even when we do, we choose to spend those rare moments running away from our problems, not towards them—usually by scrolling and staring at screens or doing any other mindless activity that helps us take our mind off things. There is often little space to take a break and just breathe. The shower is sometimes the only place where we get to be completely alone, present, and mindful.
When we put it this way, we may all benefit from more ‘shower time.’ We put it in quotation marks because we don’t mean more time actual time showering, but rather more time for daydreaming and letting our imagination run free.
What can we do to give our minds more of this freedom?
How to Recreate the Shower Environment?
This is primarily the question of finding balance in life. We need more time for self-care, fun, leisure, and hobbies, simply put — ourselves. After all, there’s nothing inherently special about the shower. With just a bit more forethought and awareness, we’re more than capable of recreating its peaceful environment outside of it.
Here are some specific tips on how we can make this happen.
1. Wake up earlier and commit to a healthy and productive morning routine;
2. Spend more time outside — nature is our greatest therapist;
3. Listen to music that provokes you to think, feel, and express yourself;
4. Spend less time at the desk and more time in movement;
5. When your kids are being playful, join them more often;
6. Turn your phone off after certain hours;
7. Keep a journal.
Also, there’s no reason to underestimate the power of the shower. Consider keeping a notebook in your bathroom in case you’re suddenly struck with inspiration so that you can write your ideas down.
The more busy your schedule is, the more critical it is to have (mental) time off. And that includes time for daydreaming, this remarkable and abstract phenomenon that is at the center of our sense of creativity, vitality, and mental agility.
It’s not always easy to find free time, but the effort can sometimes be so worth it. So, for starters, try spending time in the shower more often or for longer, and switch your electronic devices off for that occasion. You may discover interesting and profound things about yourself or gain a new perspective.