Brain Food #638

The wonders of wandering

Thoughts of the day

Vacations are good for creativity.

Researchers examined what ‘mind wandering’, the act of switching from a current task to unrelated thoughts and feelings, does to a person’s creative processes. They discovered that letting our mind wander triggers alpha waves in the brain, which are activated by relaxation, and can also boost creativity while reducing feelings of depression.

If our consciousness tends to wander, then naturally we should refrain from restricting it. It is true, that too much internal noise can be a distraction, that letting one’s thoughts roam freely can take our focus away from something important. Like striking the right balance between hedonism and holding back, the odd opportunity for mind wandering, particularly when triggered by physical wandering, may just be the right balance. An entire field of literature has been dedicated, and indeed, born out of this movement (no pun intended).

And this is exactly what a vacation can do: it can provide passive inspiration, when you do not go out looking for ideas, but they come to you.

Take that week off. Give it to someone else.


Paul Klee, though he only visited Tunisia once, found infinite inspiration in its colours, which he painted for years to come.

In his journals, he wrote about the Tunisian moon. Though visible from every night sky, suddenly, far from home, he saw its significance:

“The evening is deep inside me forever. Many a blond, northern moonrise, like a muted reflection, will softly remind me and remind me again and again. It will be my bride, my alter ego. An incentive to find myself. I myself am the moonrise of the south.”