The Science of Sparking Creativity (And Unlocking Great Ideas)

If you've never heard of "productive failure," the psychological theory could help you become more productive, focused, and better at solving problems.

Welcome to the positive corner of the internet. Every weekday, we make sense of the confusing world of wellness by analyzing the headlines, simplifying the latest research, and offering quick tips designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Lunch is on us (because one act of kindness deserves another)

  • How to turn goals into outcomes

  • The science of “a-ha!” moments

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Need To Destress? Buy Your Friend Lunch

You might be unable to stop stress from getting into your life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fight back. 

Research suggests that acts of kindness can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Before you write this off as too good to be true, the scientists reviewed more than 200 studies on nearly 200,000 people. They found that kindness works directly on your brain to help boost well-being, improve connection, and create psychological and physiological changes that can help you overcome and outsmart stress. 

Most stress results from things you can’t control, and that lack of control leads to rumination, which is your brain replaying all the things that bother you that you can’t fix. 

Enter kindness. Because you control your actions, making others feel good can help shut down repetitive negative thoughts and create a sense of belonging and community. That combination can increase positivity and boost serotonin and dopamine, and those feel-good neurotransmitters light up your brain in a way that can disable stress. 

If that’s not enough, a separate review of 27 studies suggests that helping others is one of the best things you can do to increase health and happiness.

Our suggestion is to surprise a friend and buy them lunch today. If you do, take a picture of you and your friend at lunch, tag Arnold and Arnold’s Pump Club on social media, and use the hashtag #pumpclub.

We’ll randomly select a few of you who post and reimburse your lunch in the name of kindness. Because that’s what you do in the positive corner of the internet. 

How to Turn Goals Into Outcomes

You might get tired of Arnold talking about the importance of writing down your vision, but there’s more proof that his plan can work for you just as it did for him.

Research suggests that you’re 42 percent more likely to follow through on your goals when you write down your vision and plan your actions. 

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You probably know that goal-setting doesn’t get the job done. Just look at New Year’s resolutions. So, researchers tried to identify how to transform hopes into results. 

Participants were split into one of five groups: Some just thought about their goals, others wrote them down, one group added an action plan, another had accountability, and the final group added action reports to manage progress. 

The group that added included all steps — writing down their vision, identifying action steps, having accountability, and keeping progress reports — were 76 percent more likely to achieve their goals. 

It’s the same science used to build the habit tracker in the Pump App and why it works to help keep people accountable and see their progress. 

Write down your vision and your why.

Accountability and tracking = results

The study focused on business goals, but the logic applies to fitness, too. Separate research on runners found that those who write down their short- and long-term goals — and track their progress — did a better job of increasing their mileage. 

If you want a complete system, remember that having a vision gives you clarity, your plan creates consistent, sustainable actions, and accountability keeps you on track when life throws you off course. 

Use the app or track on your own, making sure you focus on:

  1. Writing your vision

  2. Setting your habits

  3. Having accountability partners

  4. Tracking your progress 

Looking For Your Next Great Idea?

The next time you’re in a mental rut, push away from your desk and stop whatever you’re doing.

Research suggests creativity, mentality clarity, and “A-ha!” moments are more likely to happen when you step away, distract yourself, and allow your mind to wander. 

You can’t work your what into a breakthrough because of a psychological phenomenon known as fixation. When you endlessly grind away, you’re more likely to suffer from redundant thoughts, in which the same thought patterns stand in your way from the insight you desire. It is why you have moments when you read the same line ten times over or stare at a blank cursor and think, “What is wrong with me.”

What’s wrong is you’re trying too hard. Instead, you might want to try out “productive failure.” The catchy contradictory phrase can help set up your brain for success. 

Research suggests that intensely challenging your brain and stepping away so you can recover is more effective at endlessly grinding away until you find the answer you’ve been searching for. 

It’s why you seemingly have some of your best thoughts when you’re not working, whether in the shower or on a walk. One study even suggests that 40 percent of your most creative ideas happen during your downtime. 

The secret is realizing you need a combination of deep work and rest. Great ideas won’t come without the work. But endlessly working won’t allow you to have the breakthroughs. 

So push hard and then step off the gas. The combination will lead to the output — and brilliant insights — you’ve been searching for.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell