No Spend Challenge: How To Pay Off Your Debts And Start Saving Money

If you want to save money to start an investment but you never seem to have enough money at the end of the month; or if you have a debt and are struggling to make the payments in time or just wish to get out of that debt fast then this challenge is for you. A guest post by The Mini Smallholder.

The No Spend Challenge came to us when we desperately needed a solution to debt and bad health. You can try to get back on top of finances, but if you struggle to regain control this will really suit you.

We had been spending our money mindlessly and never having any extra money, no matter our wages. The No Spend Challenge is a short sharp shock for your bank balance.

A challenge which has led us to take back control and start to look at other ways to make money, save money, and reduce our reliance on our income from our full time jobs.

So a big thank you to Ray for asking me to write a little something about our experiences so far. I hope to show you all the reality of our challenge and how it has worked for us.


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What is the No Spend Challenge?

You commit to your regular monthly payments. Maintain your rent, mortgage, and all household bills and credit card repayments.

The challenge, however, involves all of those other extra expenses: A latte here and a doughnut there, or even worse, a new skirt for work –because its for work so it doesn’t count!

These are all expenses that we can find hard to face up to. By stopping them completely for a week, month, or even a year, it can help pause the spending without any guilt or blame. For me the little things, like gifts for friends, add up so quickly.

This is the financial equivalent of a detox. I recognize that I enjoy spending money, as do most of society. It is what we have been programmed to do.

So when it is a baby shower or birthday, how do you avoid spending money? For me it has always been an excuse to spend on others, well not anymore!

Why did we start the No Spend Challenge?

We started because of an accident which resulted in us being a lot less self-sufficient and not having the money to pay someone else to help out.

This was a shock as we both work full time and have no children. Rather than start pointing fingers or keeping all receipts for a month, we needed something that would help. The No Spend Challenge, for us, works as a financial cleanse.

You can easily get into all sorts of arguments once you start looking at who is to blame. I know my husband can be bad with money, but if we loo had gotten in to as well! So I would rather us both go cold turkey than blame each other.

What are the No Spend Challenge rules?

We set our own rules, as should you! So in discussion with your partner or children work out what will work for you all. Simple rules for us are:

  1. No eating or drinking out; go prepared when leaving the house, take drinks and any food needed.
  2. Reuse what we already have; if we need anything new we can wait and see if a friend or family member has one we can borrow
  3. We spend money on experiences for the children in our family and not actual ‘things’ –this was heavily negotiated.
  4. Look to reduce our transport costs by lift sharing, public transport, or bike riding, where possible, but we still have to get to work!
  5. No new clothes, make up, or shoes etc. This rule applies to our entire year long challenge, but we are ok with second-hand charity shop type options.
    If you are an online shopper check out this shop, but remember pop into the basket and then come back to it later to see if you still want to buy it!

How do you stay motivated through the No Spend Challenge?

  • By telling friends and family and joining a community of others, we are able to commit ourselves more fully!
  • Set a goal for the saved money. We have our goal of buying a smallholding and are working towards that in our day to day life.
  • Reading an article like this one from Michelle McGagh has really helped us to keep focused.
  • I even had the chance to give an interview for BBC Radio 4 You and Yours Programme on the subject of the No Spend Challenge! You can listen to the full interview for inspiration here at the 26 minute mark.
  • Online communities are fantastic for finding ideas. And we use this Facebook group to bounce ideas and tips around (zero waste no or low spend ideas).

We hope to keep scouring freecycle and facebook groups for equipment which needs a little tweak or that can be repurposed. It has transformed our life and our opportunities.

If this sounds like an option for you, check out all the support you can find online, and then think about forming a local group, meeting in your local library as a free venue!

What are some unexpected hurdles we faced through the challenge?

Gifts for friends and family

As mentioned above my gift giving is out of control. I had to redefine what being generous meant to me.

As we earned more so I gave more lavish presents. This hen puts pressure on the recipient, and they feel obliged to spend an equal amount. So this is how consumerism works is it? Well I then realized I could reverse this all.

I love to make my own crafts. Be it cushions, rugs, blankets, those sort of things. Then I also enjoy growing my own plants from seeds. Plus, the hubby is very good at baking. So we decided to make homemade hampers for friends. Or grow plants for very little outlay.

This is the one most sustainable element I think we have included. As when we started to give plants we would have to purchase the seeds –this time next year we will have harvested them from this years flowers!

We even made 200 heart shaped, bright pink wedding favours. This is to replace a wedding list gift. They are seed paper and the bride had a very special wish list for her seed paper. She has a very romantic story involving Brussel Sprouts (trust me on this one!) and so we have made another 200 green pieces of seed paper with their peas in to be planted by keen wedding guests!

I have been taking cuttings from friends plants as well and propagating them ready for gifts for the new year! We hope to put together homemade hampers for Christmas presents and that way we will be able to reduce our costs.

We spend more time for our friends and family now than we did before and I think that takes a lot of the pressure off from your finances, but on to you. This can be why we used to take the short cut of buying something and posting it, or worse paying for next day delivery.

You will need to plan ahead! No more last minute days out, forgotten birthdays. All of that has to be factored in and worked out.

However, so many friends understand when you can’t just put £10 into the leaving present. I have even taken it upon myself to arrange a baby shower so that my gift could be a rose from our garden and cupcakes for everyone who attended. This meant the cost was minimal and it did not hit our purse.

Friends coming over

Friends who come round and we get takeaway? Do you have those friends? They are really picky eaters and therefore we always give in and get a takeaway.

They don’t have any financial issues as they live with parents and are happy with their debts. We just struggled to make a few people see our point of view.

So, now we sadly see less of them. But I think seeing friends shouldn’t cost money. We respect that they don’t mind being in debt, but they can’t support our plans to not be.

It would have been easy to have made an exception for them, but that was the purpose of the No Spend Challenge. To see who supported us and who tried to bring us back to zero savings.

How has the No Spend Challenge affected our life so far?

Immediate financial benefits

Savings

Obviously we had money left over at the end of each month. This has caused so much weight to be lifted from my shoulders. I think that by not spending every time you are prompted to, it resets your relationship with money.

I think the mindless spending had to stop and this was our way to do it. No fuss, just axe it all. Then we could have the conversations about money in a more positive light.

We now have Premium bonds as savings so that we can put money to one side for emergencies, but have  chance of it increasing in value as well.

It is so hard to not sounds stupid when I say that by not spending we have more money. I think we just didn’t stop to assess where that money was going and if it represented good value.

If you have children who attend various paid-for after school activities, now is the time to ask if they would rather that money went somewhere else. Even if giving up swimming means they can do more camping with scouts.

It is a great way to see what they really enjoy. We didn’t give ultimatums but just a choice. You may not want to change what the kids do, but apply this principal to yourselves. If you decide to go for longer than a month, it can be a real bonus to the bank balance.

We were able to save enough in the first 6 weeks to have our fence fitted for us. This was the ultimate freedom as the accident had caused us to rely on others. There is always a cost attached to that!

So, we managed to save around £1,600. We really cut everything off though and I think that no travel costs due to being off ill helped out massively!

We have now managed to start a regular savings pot of around a third of our household income each month. Which is really awful to say that in the past we couldn’t account for that money.

Debt

We started the challenge with an interest free credit card which was fully loaded to around £3,000 and with the interest free period running out shortly.

This challenge meant we faced up to when this repayment window would close and when we would need to repay the amount.

We had four months and no savings to dip into to pay it off. So by going cold turkey and cutting all extras out we were able to pay it off within the limit, so no interest charged at all.

A real relief. And facing the debt once we had a plan in place was a lot easier than before.

Learn 5 more ways to help you pay off your debt fast!

Hidden benefits

More time together

Such a cliché I know, but when you have less to spend, you find more inventive ways to have fun. We had funny home cinema nights with popcorn disasters, re-watching older movies can be fun!

We found a lot more in our local area. Free events, free cinema even, and lots of walks and favourite parks.

Remembering to bring a picnic was a lot of fun as well!

Zero waste

I have found that we suffered under a myth that going green would be more expensive. Now we are making savings by making our own green replacements.

I think that we are now expanding our savings into areas we thought were more ‘fixed.’ Now we look for green alternatives which will save us money.

Some of them require a slightly larger initial investment and that is where the No Spend Challenge has helped. It has allowed us to be able to afford large ticket items, like a sewing machine. Now I make and repair our clothes and bedding. As well as gifts for others. Some really fun projects have come from this money saving challenge.

Other zero waste examples:

  • I have made us a scourer pad from garden twine, total cost around 15p.
  • We have swapped to an eco egg for laundry, total cost £5 for around 1,000 washes!
  • We have also swapped out cling film and plastic bags in the kitchen for beeswax wraps we have made.
  • I am making some baby bibs at the moment for a gift and I love that they are much more personal!
  • We also made a bird house from a teapot, one of my absolutely greatest achievements!
No spend challenge how to get out of debt and start saving money. On Pinterest.
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People’s reaction to the No Spend Challenge

What I will say though, is other peoples reactions has surprised me the most. I work in a very corporate environment and everyone buys lunch, tea, coffee whatever! It wasn’t until I worked out that the act of getting to work and eating/drinking was costing around £8 per day easily that we all stopped and thought about it.

One lunch time I opened up my packed lunch expecting to be met with giggles, but mine was actually the nicest looking lunch there. Then when I explained the challenge people really got onboard.

Lots of people had questions and things they didn’t think they could do without. But overall we worked together and supported each other.

My family have been great. I don’t think my husband and I really spoke too much about long term goals before we started the challenge. Now we plan and have a good idea of what we need. How we are going to get what we need seems a lot clearer and we are working on our plans.

Final thought

If you need to put a pause button on your finances, this is the best way to start. Then look to pay off your debts and start saving towards your goal!

We didn’t prepare for it in anyway as it came as a bit of a solution to an emergency. Some people do like to prepare, but you can be tempted to buy new things!

For any more tips please do pop on across to our site.

About The Mini Smallholder:

We are setting out to trial all of the techniques we will need on our smallholding, but on a small scale. Trying to see if going green is a viable alternative and if the good life really is that good!
The zero waste solutions tie in with our intended lifestyle but we never realized how powerful the No Spend Challenge would be.
We are enjoying moving in the right direction and this is very much a journey.

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10 Different Ways Your Body Suffers When You Don’t Drink Enough Water

If you have trouble drinking enough water every day, maybe reading this article and learning about the damage dehydration can cause to your body would work as the push you needed to start drinking more water today.

Disclaimer: I am an engineer. I have nothing to do with medicine and I don’t give any medical advice. Thank you.

Drinking water has been an issue for me most of my life. Where I live, it’s practically summer most of the year, and with this hot weather I could honestly spend an entire week and all the water I would consume would not pass the 350 ml mark.

You can imagine how much water I would drink in winter.

And as a result, I suffered from a lot of the things mentioned below on this list due to many years of dehydration. Some of them I still suffer through now.

I used to dislike water because I was rarely ever thirsty. So drinking water was like a chore to me, I hated its tastelessness and I just couldn’t stomach anything more than one sip.

But what I have learned is that the more you drink the more thirsty you get and, apparently, vice versa.

Only recently that I have started to really push myself into drinking more water because I started to really feel the trouble I’m putting my body in; and while the amount I drink now is still not the ideal one, it’s certainly increasing. And I do feel the difference.

If you, too, have trouble drinking enough water, hopefully this would work as a reminder that you should start changing this habit as fast as you can.


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Why is it important to drink water?

Our bodies are made up of more than 60 percent water.

The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones contain 31% water.

I don’t know if you would need more convincing after reading these numbers, but the fact is that our entire body with all its organs largely depend on water to function. And any drop in the amount of water intake can tremendously affect these organs.

What happens to your body when you don’t drink enough water?

  1. Loss of cognitive functions
  2. Low blood pressure and increased risk of stroke
  3. Headaches and migraines
  4. Anxiety and depression
  5. Constipation and heartburn
  6. Formation of kidney stones
  7. Joint pain and muscle cramps
  8. Bad breath
  9. Premature wrinkles
  10. Heat intolerance

1. Loss of cognitive functions

The brain is composed of 73% water and it requires this amount for energy and to function properly. If you are not drinking enough water, this can affect cognitive function and concentration, causing issues with thinking, coordination, reaction times, attention, and confusion.

According to this study that was conducted on 413 people, it is found that mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance, particularly for tasks involving attention, executive function, and motor coordination when the body loses more than 2% water.

2. Low blood pressure and increased risk of stroke

Blood Pressure

This one was a little puzzling because as I was researching I found articles from well-known medical websites claiming that dehydration causes high blood pressure.

I knew, based on my own personal experience, that dehydration causes low blood pressure, however, I am not an expert. So I still had to research a little more and find out which of the two claims is correct.

Your blood is 60% water, when this amount of water is available, it helps the blood flow smoothly through the veins. When you’re not drinking enough water to match that required percentage of water in your blood, it leads to it being thicker.

When blood is thicker, it means it will take longer to flow through your veins. This also decreases the blood volume in the body. A decrease in blood volume can cause blood pressure to drop.

According to this study, it is actually advised that people who are about to donate blood, drink an amount of 16 ounces (470 ml) of water before giving blood, as it works on temporarily raising blood pressure that can otherwise drop and cause fainting after the donation.

Apparently, there was even one study made that stated that dehydration may actually help those with high blood pressure. However, of course this is not something that anyone would advice with doing. But it just proves the point.

Stroke

Studies have shown that dehydration can result in strokes, particularity in elderly people, and that is because, as mentioned earlier, dehydration causes blood to be thicker and more concentrated, causing it to flow less easily to the brain through the narrowed or blocked blood vessels in the patient.

And it was found that 60% of people are actually dehydrated at the time of stroke and that recovery is boosted by being well-hydrated.

3. Headaches and migraines

There are several types and reasons for headaches. And one of the most common reasons is dehydration.

A dehydration headache can feel like a mild headache or an intense migraine. Pain from a dehydration headache can occur at the front, back, side, or all over the head.

I couldn’t find an actual study on what happens exactly that causes the headache, however, from what I have read so far, it is believed that when there is not enough water/fluids in the body, the blood vessels in the head may narrow in an attempt to regulate body fluid levels.

And when this happens it makes it harder for oxygen and blood to get to the brain, which results in a headache.

There was a study made on 34 people to understand the relation between water deprivation and headaches. It concluded the following:

“the 34 subjects were divided into 2 groups according to the time taken to relieve the headache by drinking water: total relief within 30 minutes by drinking 200 to 1500 mL (mean, 500) occurred in 22 subjects, and within 1 to 3 hours by drinking 500 to 1000 mL (mean, 750) in 11 subjects; 1 subject required sleep in addition to fluid intake.”

Another study made on people who suffer from migraines shows that 34 out of the 95 participants have reported that dehydration was the main trigger for their migraines.

4. Anxiety and depression

Anxiety

When you’re not drinking enough water, it leads to your blood being thicker.

The thicker your blood is, the harder your heart has to work to move it through your veins. This can lead to increased pulse rates and can potentially lead to palpitations.

It can also cause muscles to tense up and it affects your brain functions.

All these factors lead to physical stress/uneasiness which in turn leads to symptoms of anxiety. A study conducted on 52 people showed that increased water intake affected calmness and generally enhanced their mood.

This is not to say that dehydration is what causes anxiety for most people, however, if you already have anxiety, being dehydrated can certainly make it worse.

Depression

On another note, drinking water can actually help reduce the risk of depression according to this study.

It was conducted to show the effect of dehydration and it’s relation to depression and anxiety symptoms. And it was found that drinking more water helped reduce depression symptoms.

Speaking of water and anxiety, you may also like to read this study about hydrogen-rich water and its effects on reducing anxiety.

5. Constipation and heartburn

Constipation

When you are not drinking enough water, the colon pulls water from stool to maintain hydration, which slows down the bowl movement and that leads to constipation.

It is also usually advised for people who are suffering with constipation to drink more fluids.

Heartburn

Because less water means less saliva, and saliva is what helps the stomach clear acids, then you will be left with too much acid in the stomach leading to that heartburn.

Note that, while you should drink plenty of water to help with digestion, drinking too much water at one time increases the volume of stomach contents and can worsen heartburn symptoms.

So, it is better to drink smaller amounts throughout the day rather than large amounts less often.

6. Formation of kidney stones

Kidney stones form when certain chemicals become concentrated enough in the urine to form crystals. Some stones stay in the kidney, and do not cause any problems. And, sometimes, the kidney stone can travel down the ureter, the tube between the kidney and the bladder.

If the stone reaches the bladder, it can be passed out of the body in urine. If the stone becomes lodged in the ureter, it blocks the urine flow from that kidney and causes pain.

Drinking enough water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. However, if you’re not drinking enough water, it leads to low urine volume.

When urine volume is low, it is concentrated. Concentrated urine means there is less fluid to keep salts dissolved, making the risks of forming larger kidney stones much higher.

Read more about the other ways you can prevent kidney stones formation

7. Joint pain and muscle cramps

Apparently, these two symptoms are not commonly connected to dehydration and are not usually expected to be caused by loss of water but when you read about it, you understand how water directly affects them.

Joint pain

Joints form the connections between bones and they provide support to help you move. 

Cartilage, which is found in joints and the disks of the spine, has a thick liquid that works as a cushion or lubricant and helps with shock absorption to the cartilage in the joints. This thick liquid consists of about 60-85 percent water.

On the long term, not drinking enough water will cause this liquid to decrease and become less effective which will reduce the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, leading to stiffness and joint pain with the least amount of movement.

Muscle cramps

As for muscle cramps, this usually occurs when you’re working out and especially in hot temperature, when your body is subjected to heat.

The hotter you get, the more likely you are to get muscle cramps. As the muscles work harder and harder, they can seize up from the heat itself.

“Even mild levels of dehydration (3-5% of body weight) can hurt athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation.”

Read more about heat muscle injury and how to avoid it here.

8. Bad breath

There are several causes for a bad breath, and one of them is dehydration. If you’re not drinking enough water, this leads to less production of saliva in your mouth.

When there is not enough saliva in your mouth, it becomes dry. And because bacteria that live in the mouth tend to multiply as the mouth dries out, this provides a perfect environment for the reproduction of a bacteria called anaerobic which is the infection that causes bad odour.

This is why most people experience bad breath in the morning, because of the lack of saliva production when they’re asleep. 

You can read this article on the many different causes of bad breath and how to treat it.

Drinking water can also reduce tooth decay.

8. Premature wrinkles

When you don’t drink enough water, it weakens your skin’s defense and creates skin sensitivity, irritation, and premature aging/wrinkles.

The skin is made largely of Natural Moisturizing Factor. Water naturally binds to this NMF and it is this water binding that is what creates skin hydration. 

Healthy skin contains around 60% water. When there is not enough water in your body for this percentage to reach the skin, you will start experiencing symptoms such as dryness, flakiness, roughness, irritation, and cracking of skin.

When your skin is dehydrated and is affected by the above symptoms, it leads to your skin sensitivity, which will cause you to be affected by any outside factors much easier than with hydrated and healthy skin.

Read more about the reasons to premature wrinkles and how to avoid them.

10. Heat intolerance

Heat intolerance or hypersensitivity to heat is when you are constantly uncomfortable in hot weather.

This is caused when your body is unable to balance the temperature of your inside with the outside. The part in the brain responsible for this balance is called hypothalamus.

When you get too hot, your hypothalamus sends a signal through your nerves to your skin, telling it to increase sweat production. When sweat evaporates off of your skin, it cools your body down, and eases the feeling of discomfort from hot weather.

When you are not drinking enough water and your body is dehydrated, it doesn’t have enough amount of fluids to turn into sweat to cool your body temperature down and therefore you experience a constant feeling of discomfort.

Read more about heat intolerance symptoms, causes and treatment.

10 ways your body suffers when you don't drink enough water, on Pinterest
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How much water should you drink every day?

Now that we have discussed all the terrible things that are caused by being dehydrated and not drinking enough water, it’s time to know, how much water is enough water?

While there is a known rule of the 8-ounce, 8 glasses (8×8) of water per day, apparently, this is not entirely an ideal amount for everyone.

The ideal amount of water to drink varies depending on multiple factors including age, gender, and environment (temperature, altitude, etc.).

And also putting into consideration that physical exercise can greatly increase daily water needs for individuals.

According to this paper, daily water intake of 3.7 L for adult men and 2.7 L for adult women is said to meet the needs of the vast majority of people.

While in a more recent study by European Food Safety Authority, it is advised that 2.5L for adult men and 2L for adult women is the ideal amount.

And in another publication by the UK government, they advise with 6-8 glasses of fluids per day, which is about 1.2L per day.

So, it appears that there is no one definitive answer to this question, however, you can go with the average advised.

And also trust what your body tells you, because if you are not getting your required intake of water, it will most certainly let you know. So just watch out for the symptoms.

It is also important to note that, as we age, our natural thirst mechanism becomes less sensitive and we become more prone to dehydration than younger people. So, for elderly people, it is important that they pay more attention that they are getting their body’s needs for water by turning it into a habit and monitoring their intake and not just depend on being thirsty for a sign.

Being hydrated, however, does not solely depend on drinking water. It is important that the most part of it is water, however, you can still get your daily requirement of fluids from other sources such as fruits and vegetables and sugar-free drinks.

Find a list off all the different foods you can eat for hydration here.

Learn the 8 tricks I used to help me drink enough water every day.

Water in cultures and religions

This might not be very relevant to the health and science aspect here, but when I was preparing for this post I remembered a verse in Qur’an that says:

“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing?”

(verse 21:30)

And it occurred to me to see if water was also mentioned in other religions. I thought it would be an interesting aspect to look at some water facts beside the health benefits.

But to spare you more reading, as this is already lengthy and full of information, I will just link to this article here which briefly explains how water is perceived in the many different religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Animism (which I only now just learned about…) and many more.

Till next week, happy days!

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The Science Of Creativity And How To Fight A Creative Block

Can you become more creative? How does your brain create things? What is a creative block and how do you fight it? If you use creativity in any aspect of your life, then these are questions you might want to have the answer to.

Creativity is not only about art. We use creativity almost everyday in our life. And probably in every business out there, creativity is one of the main requirements. In order to be successful in any field you have got to be creative.

But what is creativity and how can you be creative?

Let’s find out.


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What is creativity?

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible or a physical object.

And in the words of a great creator:

Creativity is just connecting things.
When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

Steve Jobs

What is the science behind creativity?

Did you ever wonder about what happens in your brain when you come up with an idea or manage to solve a problem? How does your brain create things?

It has been suggested in one study that creativity is a twofold process, in which an initial improvisatory phase, characterized by spontaneous generation of new material, is followed by a period of focused re-evaluation and revision.

And apparently, contrary to general belief that there is a specific part of your brain (the right side) that is responsible for creativity, creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

The creative process however involves both sides of the brain. This process is divided into four parts: Preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.

Graham Wallis, a researcher, explained the four-stage process that goes through the person’s brain when they try to come up with a creative solution to a problem as follows:

1. In the preparation stage, we define the problem or desire, and gather any information the solution needs.

2. In the incubation stage, we step back from the problem and let our minds contemplate and work it through. Like preparation, incubation can last minutes, weeks, even years.

3. In the illumination stage, ideas arise from the mind to provide the basis of a creative response. These ideas can be the entire solution or just pieces. Unlike the other stages, illumination is often very brief, involving a tremendous rush of insights within a few minutes or hours.

4. In verification, the final stage, one carries out activities to demonstrate whether or not what emerged in illumination satisfies the need and the criteria defined in the preparation stage.

The first and last stages are left brain activities, while the second and third stages belong to the right brain.

How can one become creative?

I didn’t know that you can “become” creative. I thought creativity was mainly a gift. Some people are born creative and others are not, and that’s it.

But it turns out there is a lot more to creativity than that. While there is a genetics part to it, creativity is mostly developed through experience.

Creativity is a muscle you develop.

Mark Rober

It all depends on the experiences you have been through and how you train your brain to use the information it has.

Creativity is your ability to bring the most unrelated things and create a connection between them.

If you know hip hop music, then you probably know what freestyle is. Freestyle is a style of improvisation in which unrehearsed lyrics are recited with no particular subject or structure; where rappers use random words that has nothing to do with each other and create a rhyming lyrical content. This is one great example of how creativity works.

A study was made on a number of freestyle rappers in 2012. The scientists asked a number of rappers to freestyle lyrics and scanned their brains while they were rapping those random words, to find a way to figure how creativity works and what happens in the brain during the creative process. You can read more about this study here.

I’ve read a number of articles and watched a few videos on this subject of being creative and one of those that stood out for me was a TEDx talk by Balder Onarheim.

He gave three ways you can practice creativity and I found them quite interesting.

  1. Think of 3 unrelated words while brushing your teeth
  2. Use your dreams to solve a problem
  3. Use Wikipedia’s “Random Article”

Tooth Brush

He asks you to challenge yourself while brushing your teeth, before you go to bed every night, to come up with three words that are completely unrelated to each other. And then try to create some form of connection. This is something similar to being able to freestyle.

This is a way for you to train your brain to find connections between things that wouldn’t normally have a connection, and that on the long run strengthens your creative abilities.

Dreams

First of all, there are four stages of sleep, the fourth and last one of them is the rapid eye movement (REM) stage which is when we are dreaming and this stage takes place every 90-110 minutes, this is how long it takes for a complete sleep cycle.

And if you wake up right after this stage, you will be able to remember clearly what your dream was about.

And, in the video, Onarheim suggests that before you go to sleep, think of all the information you have on a certain problem or block that is stopping you, but don’t try to solve it, only recite the details as if giving raw information to someone else.

Because in dreams there are no rules and no constraints on what can and can’t happen. There is no logic; your mind wanders freely, and so you would most likely be able to find a connection that you weren’t able to see or figure something that you weren’t able to think of while awake.

You may want to read this article about how to use your dreams to solve a problem as it also suggests some ways to help you remember your dreams better.

And here is a number of famous examples where people got their best and most famous ideas from their dreams.

Wikipedia

The third suggestion is if you are stuck right now and need to come up with a solution, you may use something like Wikipedia’s Random Article option and regardless of what this article is about, you must read and find some form of solution out of this article.

I tried this one myself when I was stuck and while it didn’t direct me to the exact idea I was looking for, it did help in the brainstorming process.

There are many more things you can do to work on your creativity, read those other 9 ways to become more creative.

9 ways to become more creative in the next 10 minutes. on pinterest.
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What is a creative block?

So when you have worked on your creativity and practiced all the ways, and you’ve successfully become a creative person now!

Then all of a sudden your mind surprises you with creative blocks. It is when your mind refuses to let loose and create more. It is the inability to access your internal creativity.

And it often seems to happen when you’re in a desperate need of being creative. Because that’s how life works apparently.

My experience with a creative block this week

This past week, among a few other things, a block was in the way of me writing something new and caused me to be late for the first time to publish my blog post.

I received a call from my father a few days ago and I told him I feel bad because it seems like I will miss this week’s post and when he asked me why, I didn’t know what to say, because when I tried to find a reason, I couldn’t come up with one. And I felt so stupid.

The initial thought I had of the reason I couldn’t create something was because I wasn’t feeling it. I simply thought I lacked the motivation to do it.

But when I put more thought into it, I realized it was because I felt too much pressure. I felt like I had to put something out there that was so well-thought-out, perfectly researched and executed.

I needed to put a perfect article, but I wasn’t in the state of mind to create something this good and I didn’t have enough time, which added even more pressure.

And even though, deep down, I know that done is always better than perfect, I couldn’t make myself publish something that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with.

I have spent four days in a row in a mental fight with myself. And it was something like this:

I need to create something, but I don’t have the energy because there is too much pressure and too little time, and it needs to be perfect, but I can’t create perfect. I suck.

When I finally missed the deadline and couldn’t manage to publish anything in time, feelings of pressure were replaced with feelings of guilt. I was still facing the mental block but I was no longer anxious, I was simply sad.

However, when I was no longer anxious, I was able to think more clearly. And what I learned through this process is to identify what the voices in my head are saying.

I simply lost the purpose of my blog and this is why I felt the pressure and felt that I had to have a perfect article published.

The purpose of this blog was for me to learn something new every week, it is a way for me to document what I learn, this is why I started it.

However, recently this perspective started to shift and I started to think of it as a way to teach people something new.

This change of perspective, though might seem trivial, has hugely impacted my entire process. It was no longer about self-improvement, it has become an obligation towards others. It has become a pressure to put something that matches people’s expectations.

And that was what caused my creative block.

I just had to go back and think and realize why I got stuck in my head in the first place.

Once I realized this, and once I got this initial perspective back, I carried on with my process as usual. I realized that I don’t have to get it perfectly right every single time, not every week’s article needs to be “the best article I have ever written.”

It’s fine to put something that is not my absolute best, and work on enhancing later, or create something better the following week.

No one can get it right all the time. And no has to get it right all the time.

How do you fight a creative block?

I’m sure every creative person has to go through a creative block at one point throughout their creative process. It can cause loss of motivation and a lot of self doubt.

And it can be difficult to get past a creative block, but being aware of when and why a creative block develops can help in avoiding it.

I have read somewhere that in order to fight a creative block, you first need to identify your resistances.

A resistance is whatever it is that keeps you from creating. It is that internal voice in your head that tells you, “don’t create anything today.”

It could be fear. Fear of failure or rejection, fear of judgment, fear of facing an audience.

It could be a voice telling you no one cares about what you create.

It could be your mind telling you there is someone out there who is doing it better anyway.

It could be you comparing your work with someone else’s and feeling you will never match their talent and execution.

There are so many reasons as to why you will have this voice telling you not to create, and to be able to fight it, you will have to give yourself a moment to realize why it is telling you this.

Once you realize your resistances, you can then work on eliminating them.

Think of a creative block like having your brain in a cage, once you know what the cage is made of, you will be able to unlock it.

In my case, it was losing perspective of my process, losing the vision and also the need for perfection. When I identified those things, the resistances, I managed to get my perspective back and realize I was wrong, and that helped me get out of this block.

You may want to check this article that discusses a number of reasons as to why you may have a creative block and suggests some solutions for each one.

It is also worth mentioning that in some cases people can consider several types of therapy to help them with creative blocks.

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Suggestions from the Twitter-verse

I asked creative people on Twitter about what things they do that helps them get out of a creative bock and there were a lot of good suggestions, and some of them could be helpful to whoever reads it.

“I make a list of ideas I want to write about. Organization and accomplishment are big motivators for my writing. I also clean when I’m in a slump, b/c I’m more productive in a clean/organized environment.”
The Prepping Wife

“I just have to walk away and do something else. Inspiration usually strikes when I’m in the shower or about to fall asleep.”
Mom of the Moment

“I keep lots of different projects going at once. If i get burnt out on one, there’s usually another style, another topic, that i can write about.”
Kella Hanna-Wayne

“I usually turn on a documentary or series on PBS which slso tends to get my inspiration spinning. I also find cider helps too – a glass tends to help make me more confident and less doubtful.”
Peacoat Travels

“I also find that reading a book unrelated to anything I do helps. I’m a musician and have recently started writing for fun. Reading gets me out of my own head.”
My Unexpected Life

“Visiting a place I haven’t been to before or in a long time.”
Sean Flac 2.0

“I actually play video games haha. Or go for a walk if it’s nice out.”
In Asian Spaces

“A long run to clear my thoughts or a little girl time with friends usually inspires me — especially the topics that come up (some may not be appropriate for my blog, but they inspire none the less).”
LifeTravelStilettos

“I disconnect from technology, social media & the society. So as to reconnect with my soul and my creativity in nature and silence.”
Neha Gunnoo

“Depending on my creativity to keep a roof over my head means I don’t have the luxury of blocks. I dig in & do the work. When it gets tough, I’ll switch projects for awhile, or do something physical. Or shower. I work through tough plot points in the shower.”
Devon Ellington

“Sit down and write out a first draft with as many related words as possible. So if I’m interested in writing about fitness I would think about related keywords and jot them down, this gets the creative juices flowing…”
Underground Fitness

“Watch something on Netflix, read a small book, take a stroll, start writing in a little notebook, listen to some music. Those are all warmups to me.”
M. Lanen-de Vries

If you have other methods you use to fight creative block yourself, please share them in the comments below.

Till next week, happy days!

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