Recipe for Creativity: Meditation

In case you needed another reason to start meditating, here’s one: It will boost your creativity, according to a new study. And everyone—from high-powered executives to DIY crafters—can benefit from a little more creativity in their life. One particular meditation technique called open monitoring mediation can promote creative thinking, even among those who have never meditated before, according to a study conducted at Leiden University and published in the journal Mindfulness. Open monitoring meditation involves awareness—paying attention to your experience of meditation. Unlike some forms of meditation in which practitioners focus on an object or thought or repeat a mantra or phrase, with open monitoring there’s no particular focus. Instead, the meditator notices his thoughts as they come and go, without attaching to any one thought in particular. It’s a bit like watching clouds drift in the sky instead of focusing on one particular cloud.

In the study, 40 individuals (some experienced and some inexperienced meditators) took part in 25-minute meditation sessions prior to engaging in specific tasks designed to measure two important elements of creativity: divergent and convergent thinking. Just what are divergent and convergent styles of thinking?

Divergent thinking: This encourages participants to brainstorm a variety of solutions to a specific problem. For instance, in the study mentioned above, participants attempted to think of many possible uses for a pen.

Convergent thinking: Convergent thinking emphasizes the analysis of information. An example of convergent thinking would be when someone evaluates several variables and deduces a single correct solution for a math problem. In this study, according to the Universiteit Leiden website, when presented with the "words such as 'time', 'hair' and 'stretch,'" the study participants were asked to identify the common link: in this case, the word 'long'.

The investigators discovered that when meditators used open monitoring meditation, they performed better on creative tasks.

In addition to boosting creativity, mindfulness meditation reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and allows meditators to access thoughts, feelings, and sensations they might not otherwise experience. According to a blog titled "What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?" posted at Scientific American online, studies determined that after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, subjects’ amygdalas, (a.k.a. the brain’s fight-or-flight response center) shrank, their pre-frontal cortex (responsible for awareness, concentration and decision making) grew thicker, and their ability to access higher thought functions improved.

"Meditation, particularly the types that focus on deepening and expanding the flow of one’s vital energy, is highly beneficial to the creative process. In my experience, vital energy is the foundation of physiology, spirit, and of course the mind," says Swami Prakashananda, a 40-year meditation veteran and lead meditation instructor at the Movement Center, a yoga and meditation center in Portland, OR. By tapping into that energy, we increase our ability to create solutions and identify new resources.

Beginning a Meditation Practice

If you already meditate, you know how beneficial your practice is for your health, wellbeing, and ability to be creative. But if you’ve never meditated before, getting started is easy:

  1. Sit comfortably in a quiet place with your eyes closed and your back straight.
  2. Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths through your nose and focus solely on your breath.
  3. Continue deep breathing and allow your thoughts to drift through your mind.
  4. Don’t concentrate on any particular thought and don’t try to not think. Just let your thoughts come and go and be aware of what bubbles up in your mind.
  5. Do this for 10 minutes, then gradually increase your meditation time to 20 or 30 minutes. The more time you spend meditating, the deeper your state of relaxation will be.

Make your meditation practice a daily habit and watch as your health and wellbeing improve and your creativity blooms.

Liesa Harte, MD, founder, Elite Care, reviewed this article.


Swami Prakashananda, Lead Meditation Instructor. The Movement Center. Interviewed November 24, 2014.

"Meditation Makes you More Creative." Universiteit Leiden Cognitive Psychology Social and Behavioural Sciences. Page last updated September 24, 2012.

Ireland, Tom. "What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?" Scientific American. June 12, 2014.

Colzato, Lorenza S., Ayca Szapora, Dominique Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel. "Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems." Mindfulness 2014 October. DOI 10.1007/s12671-014-0352-9

"Questioning." Southern Connecticut State University. Page accessed January 16, 2015.

Lippelt, Dominique P., Bernhard Hommel and Lorenza S. Colato. "Focused Attention, Open Monitoring and Loving Kindness Meditation: Effects on Attention, Conflict Monitoring, and Creativity—a Review." Frontiers in Psychology 2014. September 23. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01083