Here’s Why You Have Your Best Ideas in the Shower, According to Science

Every single one of us is creative. (Yes, even you.)

Before you settle into a swirl of self-deprecation and silently reaffirm to yourself that you have ZERO creative instincts, take a second to consider this: creativity is an innate part of being human. Our brains are literally hardwired to be creative.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re all born Michelangelos. You might suck at painting, drawing, dancing, playing guitar or other traditional creative endeavors, but that doesn’t mean you’re not creative. You probably use creative thinking in some small way throughout day-to-day life.

Maybe you’ve developed a simple technique to ensure that your eggs don’t crack when you hard boil them—that’s creativity. Maybe you lost your rolling pin, so you use your reusable water bottle to roll out dough instead—that’s creative thinking. Even more logically-minded people—programmers, mathematicians, business people, and scientists—use creativity regularly in their work. You are not either logical OR creative. We are all a balance of both.

Want proof? Think of all the great ideas you have in the shower.

Why You Have Great Ideas in the Shower

Isn’t it interesting how you have the wildest, most brilliant ideas sometimes while you’re showering? There is a scientific reason for that. A long, hot shower is practically the biological formula for heightened creative thinking.

To foster creativity within the brain, we need two simple things: unstructured thinking space and a relaxed atmosphere.

Let’s tackle unstructured thinking space first. Nowadays, we have so few hours of unstructured thinking space that the shower is one of the few places where we can give our subconscious minds a little breathing room. It’s essentially an unintentional form of meditation. Thoughts flow in and out as you soak up the warmth of the water. Since your brain doesn’t have to be ‘on’, self-monitoring areas of the brain begin to shut down, and that’s when those creative instincts can begin to stir.

Man singing in the shower

The other piece of the creativity puzzle is likely the release of the hormone dopamine. Dopamine is crucial for creativity to take place. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist who specializes in creativity, “People vary in terms of their level of creative drive according to the activity of the dopamine pathways of the limbic system.”

Dopamine isn’t just a pleasure chemical. It’s crucial for creativity and is also used to kickstart motivation. When we are relaxed and enjoying ourselves, dopamine floods the brain.

Think about activities that make you feel relaxed and not overly-stimulated—driving down a long country road on a Sunday morning, knitting, and yes, taking a long steamy shower. These activities make us feel deeply satisfied, because they promote a dopamine release in a distraction-free zone. And with that release comes an influx of free-forming creative thinking.

With a little practice and by consciously adopting more dopamine-friendly activities, you can even encourage the development of dopamine pathways, which could lead to greater creative motivation. That’s right, you can actually make yourself MORE creative with a little practice.

The point is, you are creative. You just need to give yourself the space and freedom to be so. Let your mind wander. Allow yourself to be bored. Spend a few more minutes in that hot shower after a long day. You might just have a brilliant idea. (Just make sure to journal about it as soon as possible so you don’t lose it! That’s where a waterproof shower notepad like AquaNotes comes in handy. What a great gift idea for anyone shopping for a particularly forgetful writer who often gets her best ideas in the shower… hint hint.)

It’s important to acknowledge them within yourself and to embrace that you are, indeed, creative. All it takes is a bit of space, relaxation, self-kindness, and practice.

Do you feel like you’re in touch with your creativity? List one creative thing you’ve done, thought, or said in the past week. Think hard. We all have glimpses of creativity.

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34 comments

Mona M
Mona M24 days ago

Thank you. My best creative moments surge when my hands are busy doing simple things, near water or driving.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogers25 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Olivia M
Past Member 28 days ago

thanks for posting

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Vincent T
Vincent Tabout a month ago

Thank you

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

When I lie in bed, either before I go to sleep or more often, when I wake up, creative thoughts come to the fore with ease. Sometimes solutions to problems arise spontaneously.

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Christine D
Christine D1 months ago

Now if only I could have a pen and paper in the shower to write those ideas down. I find that my creativity peaks as well when I am hiking.

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Mely Lu
Mely Lu1 months ago

My shower time is really short that I don't even have time to think. Save water, do your thinking elsewhere.

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Mike R
Mike R1 months ago

Thanks

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig1 months ago

You can have great ideas when you let your mind flow when you're meditating. I know this is a time to clear your mind but perhaps you need to be able to exercise your mind to and if you just let it do what it wants to do it feels good. Then you will have creative thoughts.

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig1 months ago

Thank you very much

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