Graphic Design

Stop and smell the flowers

For a more creative brain, take breaks.

In a study conducted by Jeanette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Rutgers University and the director of its Human Emotions Lab, it was found that smelling flowers actually made people happier and less stressed. “[The floral smell] actually is a mood manipulator,” said study researcher Patricia Wilson of La Salle University in Philadelphia. “So, your mood is better, and given that your mood is better, you are looking for things in your memory bank that match that mood.” In fact, there’s lots of evidence that many things in nature act as medicine for your brain.

As a culture, I think few would debate that we are an over-stressed bunch. We are obsessed with technology, having information ready at our fingertips at all times, and increasing our speed and productivity every day. We’re almost always “plugged in” whether it be via a computer, tablet, or smartphone – and work can now follow our every footstep.

A recent study confirms that many Americans are only using a fraction of their vacation days,  and even more alarming, some will not take any vacation time though their employers offer it.  For those who did “get away,” more than half worked while “on vacation.”

I’m not implying that being ambitious or excited about your work is a bad thing. It most certainly is praised (and usually expected) by today’s standards. But it does lead me to wonder  – 

Why do we feel the need to work incessantly and why are we so afraid to stop?

Some would answer that they just can’t face the pile of work waiting for them when they return, that the catch-up isn’t worth taking the time off. I get that from a productivity perspective. But let’s talk creative for a minute.

No one does their best work when they are burnt out.

Rarely does anyone come up with a truly great campaign or design strategy when they are trying to think about it. It’s most often during the drive home, in the shower, making a cheese sandwich. That million-dollar idea marinates in our subconscious and pops up when we may not expect it.

I’ve stared at a design for hours not knowing what was off about it. Something…but what? Begrudgingly going home for the night, I want to keep thinking about it, fiddling with it mentally and eventually fall asleep with dreams of layouts floating through my mind. The next morning, I sit down with fresh eyes and before I know it, the problem’s been solved. All that time wasted the day before in trying, and all I really needed to do was take a break – stop trying for 15 minutes so the answer could present itself.

In our quest for greatness, we’ve all become workaholics, not taking our much-needed breaks or appreciating the fact that sometimes our brains just need a rest. The next time you’re really stuck on a project, go for a quick walk, find a flower, and get a noseful. I can’t guarantee you’ll find the solution you’re looking for, but science says you’ll at least be in a better mood.

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