Explore the power of breath and its connection to inspiration and creativity

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut, bored with your routine, or lacking motivation for your goals? If so, you might need a dose of inspiration to rekindle your passion and creativity. Let’s pause for a moment and take a breath. Inspiration is the breath that infuses life into creativity. Quite literally. The word “inspiration” originates from the Latin “inspirare,” meaning “to breathe into.”

From a scientific point of view, inspiration is studied as a motivational response to creative ideas to bring those ideas to fruition, not as a mystical phenomena. In this blog post, I will share with you some of the latest research on inspiration, its benefits, and how you can cultivate it in your daily life.

Scott Barry Kaufman in his article on why Inspiration matters says, “Inspiration allows us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations, propelling us from apathy to possibility.” But what exactly is inspiration, and how can we harness its power to lead more fulfilling lives? According to Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot, inspiration has three core aspects:

  1. Evocation: Inspiration often strikes spontaneously, without conscious intent. It’s those moments when ground-breaking ideas emerge seemingly out of nowhere.
  2. Transcendence: We transcend our more animalistic and self-serving concerns and limitations during a moment of clarity and awareness of new possibilities or even a new vision.
  3. Approach motivation: When we are inspired, we strive to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea or vision

Inspired people share certain characteristics. They are open to new experiences and ideas, have a strong sense of purpose and direction in life, and are highly motivated to achieve their goals. They are also resilient in the face of setbacks and failures, and are able to learn from their mistakes.

Kaufman notes that inspired people also reported higher levels of important psychological resources, including belief in their own abilities, self-esteem, and optimism. He says mastery of work, absorption, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism all precede inspiration.

Kaufman says, “Inspiration is a springboard to creativity.” When we are inspired, we tend to see ourselves as more creative, and our self-assessment of our creative abilities tends to improve over time. The reason inspiration and creativity are closely linked is that being inspired propels you beyond the usual boundaries. You gain a fresh perspective, allowing you to break free from conventional thinking. It’s in this uncharted territory that you often discover the most ingenious ideas and solutions.

Inspiration doesn’t discriminate if an idea or experience is valuable or achievable by traditional standards. What truly matters is your personal connection to it. If you find something fascinating and meaningful, it has the power to inspire you, even if it’s not a big deal to others.

Inspiration also plays a pivotal role in enhancing overall well-being:

  • Exposure to inspirational sources leads to higher levels of positive emotions and long-term well-being.
  • Inspiration is closely linked to future satisfaction and success.
  • The extent to which inspiration lasts is connected to a sense of purpose and gratitude in life.

Now, the question is: how can you breathe life into your creativity?

We know from the science of creativity that mastery in your work and preparation are key to creating fertile ground for inspiration. To paraphrase Louis Pasteur, Inspiration favours the prepared mind

One way to prepare your mind is through breath itself. Breathing mindfully has long been integral to Zen Buddhism and Ayurvedic Pranayama (yoga breathing). Research shows that breathing techniques can help you reduce stress and achieve a deep state of relaxation and clarity of mind, which can in turn boost your creativity.

Tuning into your breath is an effective tool to help you become resilient in the face of daily challenges. Slow breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system to help de-stress, relax, and find your center. It can prepare you for high-stress events such as giving a presentation or speaking in public.

Niraj Naik a former UK pharmacist says the yogis understood there’s a direct connection between thought and breath. “When you hold your breath after the exhalation, as you expire and hold your breath, you pause life for a moment. In doing so, it’s like a defrag for your whole nervous system, and it can actually clear all that noise out of your brain and in your mind, and clean the operating system.”

I love that. I make it a daily practice to defrag my brain

Try these simple practices to increase calm, well-being and mental agility

5/5 Breathing

  • In this simple exercise, inhale to the count of five and exhale to the count of five.
  • Inhale through your nose and fill up your lungs, diaphragm, and belly.
  • Exhale through your nose, starting with your belly, then the diaphragm and lungs. Try not to make any sound when you are breathing.
  • If it’s hard to breathe to the count of five, try breathing to the count of three.
  • Count your breath by your inhales. Try this for one minute to start, then five minutes.
  • Gradually increase your 5/5 breath so you are breathing six cycles per minute all day. (Our average rate is 12-16 cycles per minute.)

My doctor said it took her over a year to achieve this. I told her I find 5/5 breathing is hard when I am walking, and she said to try one breath at a time. I did and managed to breathe this way for 20 minutes while walking at a moderate pace. The next time I hiked up a mountain I noticed I had more stamina and I wasn’t huffing and puffing.

Box breathing

This practice is called box breathing because you can trace the outline of a box in your mind’s eye as you do the exercise. The Navy Seals use box breathing to stay calm and focused when under duress. In this exercise, use the same deep breathing technique as above, only this time inhale to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, then hold for the count of four. This completes one round. Breathe in this manner for five minutes to start, then extend your time.

4,7,8 breathing

This is another variation of pranayama breathing. Integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil, MD, says this practice helps him overcome insomnia and drift off to sleep. Start by breathing in for 4 seconds, then hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This is one cycle. Start with 4 cycles and gradually increase your time.

You might also like my post on how to overcome mental fatigue

You can practice these breathing exercises anytime during your busy day as a way to de-stress and get back in the flow.

Inspired to learn more tools and techniques?

Consider taking my online course on Creative Resilience: How to Flourish in the Face of Life’s Challenges.

A Course in Creative Resilience: How to flourish in the face of life’s challenges

This is not your typical self-help program.

It’s a transformative journey into the heart of creativity, innovation, and personal empowerment. Imagine a life where setbacks and challenges are not roadblocks but stepping stones to your success. Picture yourself armed with the creative tools to not just bounce back but to leap forward, finding ingenious solutions to life’s complexities. Our course is built on five core principles, merging cutting-edge neuroscience, the science of human flourishing, and the transformative power of the arts.