Why unplanned downtime is good for you.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

This week as part of #anewlookatsummer we are going to take your imagination out to play. 

Imagination is defined as: “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” 

As children we are encouraged to develop our imagination. We write stories, play make-believe and draw. But imagination is not often prized in adults. Having an “over-active imagination” or living in a “make-believe” world is a bad thing. 

But the narrative around imagination is changing. It’s now recognised as a key business skill that underpins innovation and business success. AI has been introduced and once separated sectors now function as business ecosystems. Visualising and seeing new possibilities are highly prized skills.

But what does this have to do avoiding summer stress? How does imagination help you relax?

The key to developing your imagination is spending time by yourself, with yourself. It needs space and quiet to grow. It cannot thrive in our always busy, always on state. 

A study by the University of Columbia showed that smart phones undermine our enjoyment of real life social interaction. They make us unhappier and less engaged. Just having one near you reduces cognitive capacity.

Spending time with our imaginations forces us to disconnect and slow down, something we sorely need

As a mum, the first 10 days of the long summer holidays were always the worst. After the hectic end to the school year with trips, performances and assemblies my three children were so programmed to be busy they didn’t know where to put themselves. They were bored, fought and annoyed each another. Then, about 10 days in, a peace would descend. I would hear the click of Lego, bedrooms became pillow forts and play began. 

So how can we develop our imagination? 

The writer Brenda Ueland believed imagination needs “moodling”. Now, I had never heard of moodling before but apparently it means “to dawdle aimlessly; to idle time away”. That might just explain why our imaginations fade as adults. 

When was the last time you dawdled or were idle?

Modern living is all about being productive and efficient, squeezing as much as we possibly can out of each day so is it any wonder our imaginations fade? They need “nothing” time. 

This weekend, give yourself permission to moodle. My preferred form of moodling is pottering around at home. I can lose hours cleaning and moving objects from one room to another. 

To really engage your imagination how about an activity to return you to your childhood? Pick up some coloured pencils. Its time for some doodling to get you moodling!

🎨 Exercise Four: Moodle Time 🎨

Colouring isn’t just child’s play. It”s an activity that uses both sides of the brain. The right side of the brain, naturally more holistic and creative chooses colours while the left side (the logical, mathematical side) controls the movements so colouring creates an opportunity for both sides to work together to access your imagination. (That’s just for the part of you that may be freaking out at the idea of wasting time colouring!)

🎨 How it works 🎨

We have 2 beautiful hand drawn patterns for you to choose from.

  • Decide which one you like, print it off and find some coloured pens or pencils

  • Start colouring :)

  • Low tech version : Don’t have a printer or coloured pencils? Grab a piece of paper, a pencil and a plate. Draw around the plate and then fill the circle in with doodles :)

  • As you colour let your mind wander and play that favourite childhood game. What would you like to be when you grow up? Take time to imagine your future? Not just the remaining five months of this year but the next five or ten years. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still play that game :)

“ [imagination] is the 21st century weapon of choice for catalyzing the creative process, and in order to transition from a knowledge-based economy to a creative based ecosystem, consider giving yourself permission to dream about the impossible and imagine the unimaginable.”

-Mark Masuoka CEO, Akron Art Museum