Friday, March 15, 2013

Creativity, Trained Through The Senses

Creativity, Trained Through The Senses:

Have you stopped to notice how we have conditioned ourselves through our senses? Repeated connections to smells, sounds and our surroundings slowly train our brain to respond automatically. It could be the aroma of coffee in the morning that prompts the mind to begin to awaken. Or a song on our iPod that gears us up for working out. It could be the way the ambient light softens our mood in a candle lit room. What we often take for granted, slowly become triggers. In the same way, our senses can also become a vehicle to arouse creativity. Because many creative individuals posses an attuned sensitivity to their environment and experiences, this can be an effective tool to utilize for creative productivity.

What Surrounds You?

Many have referred to it as a “sacred space”. It could be your office or studio. Is your surroundings nurturing your muse or hindering it? Is there clutter? Or is it open and spacious, allowing your imagination to freely flow? In the Feng Shui philosophy, it is believed that clutter may cause one to feel sluggish and unmotivated. Is your space a place where creativity can flourish?

Take a look around. What symbols decorate your area? What kinds of pictures or artwork are hanging on the walls? What items do you regularly glance upon? Do these items hold a positive meaning for you, or do they represent aspects of yourself you’ve out grown? The space we frequently create in should be surrounded with symbols that support an artful life and inspiration.


The sense of smell is one of the senses that are hotwired directly to the brain. Scent instantaneously triggers memory recall and a flow of thoughts closely intertwined with feelings and emotions. This is why a single whiff of an aroma can unexpectedly thrust us back in time and materializes an entire scene from our past.

With aromatherapy, essential oils are used to evoke positive emotions. For instance, essential oils such as Clary sage, Citrus and Bergamot are used to boost creativity and inspiration. Incense is another way to magically dissolve stresses of the day and helps us become mindful of our present moment. What particular scent or aroma transforms your creative space?


Music has been used to shift moods for as long as we can remember. We now know that music produces certain chemicals in our body like serotonin (the “feel good” chemical). It can increase or decrease blood pressure, effecting levels of energy. We also know that music enhances the connection between both sides of the brain, which aids the flow of information during the creative process.

The type of music is a very personal preference. For most of us certain styles, certain songs can elicit a specific emotion. Music can also be spiritual for some and opens up gateways into the imagination. Playing music that inspires and moves you not only stimulates the muse, but also creates an atmosphere, which can boost the creative experience.


How is the lighting in your space? Does the fluorescent overhead cast a greenish tint, leaving you feeling depleted? Or do streams of natural daylight bathe it? Does the sun peek through windows as it rises up to greet your creative spirit? Take notice of how lighting effects your motivation and inspiration. Lighting is essential when generating an atmosphere that nourishes your creativity and plays a vital part in productivity. It may require adjusting some fixtures in your office or studio, changing some bulbs or finding ways to allow more daylight in.

Time of day

For some artists, during nocturnal hours when the rest of the world is sleeping provides chunks of uninterrupted time. For others, after a good nights rest, they are more ready to perform their craft when their creative energy is replenished. What time of day do you feel you most thrive creatively? Are there particular times when you feel most inspired? Or when your energy is dwindling? Have you tried to force creativity into a “9 to 5” slot, only to find it works against you? Honoring your own natural cycle and utilizing it to your advantage can prove to be more beneficial and productive.

Utilizing the senses can help the creative person call to their muse especially during times when inspiration is hard to find. If made part of a ritual, overtime the creative spirit is automatically awakened by a scent, song or atmosphere.

Top image from The Creative Finder.

This is a cross-post from The Art of Mind.

Lisa A Riley, MA, LMFT is a Creativity Coach and has spent more than nine years working with creative individuals such as artists, actors, designers, musicians, writers, and actors. She “helps to empower clients to take steps towards enhancing their creativity and move closer to becoming the artist they envisioned themselves to be”. See her multiple ‘Products for Your Creative Success’ on her site The Art of Mind.