Let’s take a break from talking about searching for freelance writing jobs, writing tips, and grammar. Today, we’d like to focus on what might be a low priority for many freelance writers: staying physically active.
You’re likely no stranger to the effects of burnout. Spending hours on end sitting and staring at a screen can take a toll on your body — both physically and mentally — which can lead to writer’s block and a lack of focus.
Of course, anyone can experience burnout, but freelancers are often more prone to burnout because they are more isolated and tend to overwork themselves since they don’t have set “office hours.” The effects of burnout can be even more draining for someone who works in a creative field like writing.
It’s hard to keep those creative juices flowing and come up with new ideas when you just aren’t feeling your best. This is why taking care of your body and your mind is so important for freelancers.
The Connection Between Staying Active and Creativity
If you want to power your brain and keep the words flowing, you’ve got to move your body. Most writers experience writer’s block at some point, but it’s more common in those who aren’t as active or who don’t focus on things like self-care and improving their mental health.
Writers throughout history have extolled the benefits of exercise for this very reason. Writers like Thoreau, Nietzsche, and Immanuel Kant made it a habit to walk while formulating new ideas. In fact, Nietzsche specifically said to “sit as little as possible” when offering advice on how to keep the mind sharp. (I know…this is practically impossible when you have tons of deadlines!)
The theory that moving your body keeps you creative is more than just speculation. Many peer-reviewed studies support these beliefs. For example, Stanford researchers found that creative output increased by 60% on average when walking. Other studies have shown convergent thinking improves when a person exercises more than three times per week.
So how exactly does physical activity do this? What is it about exercising and moving the body that boosts creativity?
These studies claim the following reasons why exercise improves creativity:
- Helps you grow new brain cells: Exercise boosts cell production in the hippocampus, which is also a part of the brain that is hypothesized to help people imagine new ideas.
- Releases neurotransmitters: Exercise releases four mood-boosting chemicals—endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—all of which have an influence on creative thought.
- Improves mental health: Depression is more common in creative types, but exercise releases chemicals, like those listed above, that help you fight off depression.
- Forces a change of environment: In general, the idea of getting up and changing your environment can help you feel better when you’ve been sitting and staring at a screen all day. But psychological research has specifically shown and connection between nature and cognitive function. So by getting up and specifically going outside to move your body, you are improving your brain function.
Healthy Activities That Can Boost Your Creativity
There are many things you can do as a freelance writer to shake up your day and move your body to help you boost creativity. There is no one right way to go about this. However, we’ve put together a list of some specific and more creative ideas—beyond just going for a run or to the gym—to help get you started.
Start a Garden
Gardening is an excellent way to improve memory and concentration, which can help with the creative thought process. Gardening is not only physically demanding, but it also gives you the opportunity to spend more time in nature. Many find gardening calming as well, which can help with anxiety and stress.
Sign Up For Dance Lessons
Dancing itself is a physical form of creative expression, but it can also offer you a fun way to get away from your computer for a little while and think about something else. Dancing is also a very social activity, which can help freelancers battle isolation, which could be contributing to their writer’s block.
Join a Nature Group
You can certainly go out and explore nature on your own by going on a solo walk or a hike, but joining a group is even better. Many places have groups or organizations that offer different kinds of nature experiences, where you can go on hikes in local parks and learn to identify different plants and animals. This gets you outside, allows you to socialize, helps you stay more active, and you can even learn something new along the way.
Try Out Laughing Yoga
No doubt you’ve heard of yoga, but have you ever heard of laughing yoga? Most people know the many health benefits of a good yoga routine, but laughing yoga is specifically about promoting intentional laughter and smiling more, which can significantly boost your mood and help fight writer’s block. The specific movements of laughing yoga also give you a really good core workout.
If you want to avoid burnout and kick that writer’s block to the curb, you’ve got to get up from your computer and move your body more. Understandably, this can be hard to do if the physical activity itself isn’t an attractive option, like simply going for a run or heading to the gym.
That’s why it helps to think of more unique and fun ways to get you physically active, like some of the examples we listed above. Take a martial arts class, join a birdwatching group, sign up for ballroom lessons—whatever you want—just as long as it gets your body moving.