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Ideas grow on trees

NATUREWORKS: CREATIVITY BREAKS

At Canopy & Stars we’ve been using our special outdoor places for years as retreats from the office, a chance to talk face-to-face to colleagues away from a boardroom desk, giving ourselves space to use the outdoors as inspiration in our everyday lives and to boost our creativity by getting out in nature. After an illuminating away day in a horsebox, we hit on an idea. What if other people used our spaces in this way? What if our yurts, treehouses, cabins, Gypsy caravans and Iron Age Roundhouses could be enjoyed by the creative, inspired and inspiring across the UK?

If you had the time, the breathing space, the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and all of its positive properties could you be one step away from your next big thing? Could your next piece of award winning work be inspired by water? Your next business win be leveraged by a walk in the woods? Your next book, marketing plan, breakthrough or business plan be strategised whilst listening to birdsong? 

We've got the evidence to prove nature boosts your creativity and we sent out some folk to test our theories. Read on for the what, the why and the who…

Itinerary
Blue sky inspiration

BLUE SKY THINKING

So what is it about nature that has such an effect on creativity? Why do ideas blossom away from the norm and why does getting out in the green stuff really activate the grey stuff?

One argument is that being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex to ‘rest’ – this is the bit of the brain that is stimulated by technology and once taken away from the usual distractions (constantly ringing phones, emails pinging in inboxes etc.) is allowed to take a break. One experiment with a group of hikers in the US found a 50% increase in creative performance after a four to six day immersion in nature (1) but even a simple walk can increase creativity by up to 60% according to Stanford University research. (2) Spending time in nature provides a multi-sensory experience that can provide us with the inspiration, contemplation and relaxation we need for our creativity. Creativity expert Claire Bridges tells us how and why… 

Contemplation
Contemplation

CONTEMPLATION:

One of the reasons we have some of our best ideas when we’re daydreaming or not thinking about the problem is down to a process called incubation. Our unconscious mind needs time to noodle away on the challenge and help us make connections. This is the reason that we often have our best ideas in the shower, whilst walking the dog or lounging around in a hammock - when we’re not thinking directly about the problem - our unconscious mind takes time to find patterns and devise solutions.

HOW TO DO IT

1. Feed your brain everything it needs to start digesting the problem; desk-research, insights, questions and discussion then head off and do something else. For example at Coracle the Yurt, a much loved spot in Dorset, you can daydream whilst sipping a cuppa by the lake, learn to whittle in a green woodworking course or head to the sauna yurt before coming back to your challenge. We guarantee you’ll have new insights and ideas when you return to your problem.

2. Shinrin-yoku  is Japanese for a practice known as ‘forest bathing’ –  the idea is that you head to a forest for its ‘medicine’, to walk slowly and breathe deeply, inhaling all the scents that surround you, perhaps touching the bark of a tree as you pass, or stepping into a stream to feel the water and the ground underneath your feet.

Relaxation
Relaxation

RELAXATION

Alpha waves are the stars of the show when it comes to creativity. They are slower than the brainwaves typical of alert, focused mindset yet faster than the slow waves of deep sleep. Daydreaming, meditation and time out can provide this brain state to foster creative thinking. High levels of stress are not compatible with creative thinking, and produce cortisol – a stress indicator. Just 20 minutes in a natural setting significantly reduces cortisol levels. (3) 

HOW TO DO IT

1. The historian Simon Shama has coined us the ‘look down’ generation due to our obsession with our smartphones. Try deliberately ‘looking up’ from your phone. Try some real ‘blue sky thinking’ with The Cloud Appreciation Society. Since creativity is often about getting a fresh perspective, one of my favourite things to do when I’m feeling stuck is to find a patch of grass, lie down and use the clouds as random stimulus. Or take a five-minute breather to get those all-important alpha waves going. Sign up to get a ‘cloud a day’ to your inbox if you’re stuck indoors.

2. Even if you’ve never done it before, find a quiet spot to simply reflect and meditate, proven to aid creative thought (thanks to those alpha waves again).  If you are outdoors, find a place that appeals to you where you can just sit and you won’t be easily disturbed for a short while.  Get comfortable and warm. You might want to kick off your shoes and socks and rest your back against a nearby tree, perhaps somewhere you can hear a stream babbling nearby.

Inspiration
Inspiration

INSPIRATION

It’s not about waiting for the muse, but seeking out stimulus to help us problem solve. George de Mestral invented Velcro when he noticed that tiny burdock burrs had attached themselves to his dog’s fur via their tiny hooks. Clarence Birdseye (of fish finger fame) was inspired to invent flash freezing when he saw the Inuit tribes fishing in sub-zero conditions. Taking inspiration directly from nature is an emerging science called biomimicry- an approach to innovation that explores solutions to human challenges by emulating what works in nature (4).

HOW TO DO IT

1. Think about how you can use all of your senses to generate ideas. We often think about what we can see but what about smell, taste, touch and sound as ways to generate or improve ideas? Think about what different random stimulus you can forage for in nature for your next brainstorm that engages all of the senses. That faintly scented pinecone, interestingly shaped piece of bark or fallen leaf might just spark an idea. Aristotle considered the ability to think in metaphor a sign of genius. So ask yourself how is this item like my problem? Perhaps you’ve come across a wild rose – so it has thorns, it’s scented, it doesn’t last for long. 

So what are the thorny issues you may be ignoring, what could your idea smell or taste like, how could you create a short-lived experience?

2. Take photographs to use as stimuli for your next challenge when you’re outside. Try and find a fresh perspective on something that you might not usually notice or pay attention to. Set yourself a creative theme for your images - perhaps to find a particular shape, colour or texture in nature - or find items on your walk that could somehow relate back to your problem. 

References:

1. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0051474

2. http://news.stanford.edu/2014/04/24/walking-vs-sitting-042414/

3. Ulrich R.S., Simons R.F., Losito B.D., Fiorito E., Miles M.A., Zelson M.Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. J. Environ. Psychol. 1991;11:201–230. doi: 10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80184-7.

4.  https://biomimicry.org/

Inspiration quote
Get outside the box

FIND YOUR PERFECT CREATIVE SPACE

We have a wonderful collection of properties all around the UK (but far enough away not to be dragged back in to the office at the drop of a bobble-hat).

A stone’s throw from the capital, breathe smog-free air whilst getting inspired in a horsebox, shepherd’s hut, tabernacle or on a woodland bus.

A skip from Bristol will find you daydreaming in treehouses, tipis, train carriages and Gypsy caravans.

A hop from the Scottish centre offers bothies, converted fire trucks, wagons and a gorge-side bathtub. 

Moments from the heart of Wales and you’ll have swapped the open plan for the open air. Stay in a wagon, vintage caravan, yurt or safari tent. 

Stay connected whilst un-connecting from your every day. Stay in a safari park, a slice of Dorset woodland, or a music studio in a forest. 

You’re guaranteed to be the only ones around in a straw cottage, award winning shed or hand built boat. 

Teams of four or more can boost their creativity at a microbrewery, a forest lodge, or organic smallholding. 

Search our whole collection from treetop hideaways to canvas abodes, hand built havens to converted masterpieces – we’ve got it covered. 

Our bookings team are on hand to help you seek the best creativity break for you.
Call +44 (0)117 204 7830 Monday to Friday, 9am - 6pm or fill in this short form and we’ll get back to you.

A desk is a dangerous place...
360 Contemplation

TRIED AND TESTED

We gave some eminent and respected creative types the chance to visit one of our spaces to fully immerse themselves in the Canopy & Stars experience. An opportunity to ditch the constraints of the office for a couple of days; relax in the outdoors, be immersed in nature and find inspiration and contemplation. Designers, ad agencies, photographers, app developers, planners, illustrators; from Oscar winning companies to one-man-bands. Leaders in their field, to the next big thing; here’s what they had to say about their experience.

Line
Win your creativity break

WANT TO WIN YOUR OWN CREATIVE BREAK?

Do you have a creative problem to solve? Do you need the chance to get away from the 9 to 5? Do you want to achieve contemplation, relaxation and inspiration? We’re giving four lucky folk a two-night stay at Puckshipton Ark; a hand built haven nestled in the corner of a Wiltshire farm. Winners will get full use of The Ark, and its sister wagon The Arkette. You can host your morning meeting around the wood burner, work from under the willow tree then take a break to pick some wild strawberries or swim in the outdoor pool. This competition has been extended until 31 July 2017 – good luck folks! 

Enter now
Art is a harmony parallel with nature