Some of my best articles were conceived while shaving my legs. They’re often half-written in my head by the time I’m toweling off. There’s something magical about how often I get good ideas in the shower. It turns out, however, like most things that seem like magic, the shower reverie phenom is rooted in science. Here’s the quick-and-dirty psychology behind why inspiration often strikes while you're getting clean.
You don’t have decisions to make
Letting your mind wander allows you to think creatively. What we call "wandering," in all actuality, is the brain making new or unexpected connections between ideas, and it can only happen when we aren’t engaged in high stakes decision making, according to Scientific American.
Also, Scott Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist whose written widely on creativity and brain function, observed in his research that people tend to have innovative ideas in the shower, because the relaxation involved allows us to be more mindful of our daydreams. We’re also in a state where "if some sort of great connection does arise, it will reach that threshold of consciousness,” he said, during a radio interview.
There aren’t usually very many choices to make in the shower. Maybe you wash your hair or maybe you don’t, and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets. Theoretically, this leaves room for ideas we might not ordinarily acknowledge to rise to the surface.
There’s no one there to judge you
“If you live or work alone, you have more freedom to create,” says Aimee Daramus, a Chicago-based psychologist. The same sentiment goes for solo bath time. Your mind is less preoccupied with another person in your space, and that can power your imagination.
Also, research shows that most folks are less self conscious when they’re alone. You will be less inhibited about where you let your mind wander if there’s no one there watching, and because showering alone is the cultural norm, it’s more likely to feel like solitude than loneliness.
You’re more relaxed
Hot water, solitude, and the calming sound of water hitting tiles like summer rain can be a very relaxing combination. "Being relaxed allows both our emotional and logical abilities to let loose," says Daramus. "Relaxation promotes creativity."
According to brains scans from 2014 research cited in New Scientist, “moments of creativity take place when the mind is at rest rather than working on something.” This small but cool study doesn’t necessarily mean you should stay in the shower, singing and scrubbing for hours, but that unplugging and letting your mind wander for a few minutes could be really beneficial to the quality of your work.
You aren’t distracted
“You can’t take your to-do list, your phone, or a book in the shower,” says Daramus. “You can just be in the moment.” Being present and focused on whatever mundane and glorious motions that take place in the shower leaves less room for stressful intrusive thoughts, she explains. In other words, you aren’t distracted by your to do list and you are less likely to be stressed out about it in the shower.
The lack of distractions allows you to be present to the sensory experience you’re having without pressure. Mindfulness practices sometimes make people feel fidgety, but there’s no failing in the shower. You can enjoy the sound and sensation of the water and the smell of your soap without feeling like you’re doing it wrong. When your mind starts to wander, you can just follow it, like a creativity click hole.