I personally use imagination exercises every day. Why? Same reason I practice daily meditations for creativity. Because being more imaginative and more creative can really help us to live our best lives.
Indeed, imagination is incredibly important in everyday life. As Ron Norman said at the 41st Annual Adult Education Research conference, imagination helps make knowledge applicable to solving problems. Whatever the problem, imagination can help.
Try the methods below, and you might also like to read my guide to Mind Training Techniques.
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1. Meditation for imagination
You can exercise your imagination by practising specific meditation techniques. In particular, “Open meditations”.
When we do open meditation, we open the mind to the entirety of our environment. This strengthens creativity. To do this you literally just lie down and focus on the sensory experience of the present moment.
Science proves that open meditations heighten creativity. Cognitive psychologists Lorena Colato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University conducted research and discovered that a brief meditation session could have a deep and lasting effect on your creative brain. However, this is only true for “open” meditation techniques (meditations in which you are receptive to your entire environment and to thoughts and sensations).
2. Copy kids
If you want to know how to train your imagination, learn from kids.
Pablo Picasso said: “Everyone starts off as an artist. The trick is staying that way.”
Obviously, kids have good imaginations. They’re always creating stories, drawing pictures, and playing imaginary games. But we stop doing these things as we grow up. Because we stop using our imagination, we lose it. So, go and play like a kid.
Fun implies a sense of playfulness. Playfulness means a sense of creativity, a sense of messing around, changing things, and experimenting.
Be creative. Have fun.
3. Video games
Scientific research suggests that video games could strengthen imagination and creativity. Some genres of games are better at this than others.
Creative games like Scribblenauts for the Nintendo Switch, for instance, teach you to be more creative and artistic.
Fantasy games like Dragon Age and Final Fantasy show you amazing fantastical lands and characters, inspiring your creative mind.
And some games get you to draw or to be creative in other ways (Minecraft, for instance).
4. Daily brain training activities.
Many websites and apps have brain training activities. In fact, there are even brain training activities in the newspapers.
Many of these apps and websites involve using the imagination. Everything from online games to Facebook posts that ask you to “fill in the blank” can boost your imagination.
5. Enhance your imagination in the shower
In the book Wired To Create, Scott Barry Kaufman says 72% of people have creative insights in the shower.
We usually shower alone in an isolated environment with few distractions. It’s the perfect relaxing environment for opening the imagination to new ideas. We are relaxed by the water and the fragrances. And when we relax we become creative.
Therefore, to train your imagination, simply take a shower.
- Meditate on the sound of the water
- Be mindful of the feelings of washing your body
- Breathe in the warm air
- Smell the fresh scents of the soap
- Relax, because a relaxed mind is a creative mind.
6. Visualisation exercises
- Close your eyes and take a few calming breaths to silence your mind.
- Imagine stepping into a specific room of your house. You open the door and turn to the left. What do you see? Take your time to visualise the walls, any furniture, windows etc. Allow yourself to see the colours of this side of the room, the shapes, the general outline of the room and so on.
- Now proceed to the next wall and repeat the process.
- Once you have viewed each side of the room, fill in the details. Are there any items left out? Is anything out of place? Are the lights on or off? See these details.
- Open your eyes and recall the same mental picture. You will find it harder because the information from your environment is interfering with the mental picture. The more you practice this exercise, the more you will be able to use your creative mind while your eyes are open, which will significantly help you to think clearly in daily life.
I do this exercise once a week. It’s a terrific way to increase the power of your imagination. But you might be wondering: Why do you want to imagine the rooms of your house?
Actually, it’s a means to an end. When you can visualise your house easily, you’ll be able to visualise other things.
You can also use this to help you with visualisation meditations.
One of the best psychological exercises you can do is to visualise your path to success. And you will be more effective at that when you practise this exercise. If you’d like to know more about this, read my guide to training your subconscious mind.
7: Practice Yoga
Yoga is great for exercising both your body and you mind. And it can help you yo access the state of “flow”. Naturally, that will enhance your imagination.
8: Read and watch fantasy to open your mind
Scientific research shows that reading or watching highly imaginative fiction improves our creativity.
The best genre for this is fantasy. For instance, the Harry Potter series or anything by Terry Pratchett. Fantasy books are packed full of highly imaginative scenes. They are the most creatively liberating genre of novels.
Alternatively, watch creative movies. These can be movies that are highly creative in themselves (Inception, for instance). Alternatively, they can be movies that show a character being highly creative (such as Amadeus).
Positive psychologist Ryan Niemic researched the effect of movies on the mind. He found that watching movies with creative characters makes us more creative.
In his book Positive Psychology At The Movies, Niemiec states that the best movies for imagination are:
- A Beautiful Mind
- Cast Away
- Edward Scissorhands
8: Torrance Test of Creative Thinking
In the 1960s, psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance produced the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking . He used this as an IQ test for creative thinking.
The idea is to take the line drawings and turn them into complete images, trying to be imaginative.
9: Draw your hand
Creative coach Mark McGuniess  recommends drawing a picture of what you actually see rather than what you think you see. It’s a direct observation technique. To do it, grab a pencil and paper and draw your hand while only looking at your hand (don’t look at the paper).
10: Turn it upside down
Lori McNee of Fine Art Tips suggests looking at the world upside down. If you’re drawing, for instance, you can turn whatever you are looking at upside down and draw it that way. This moves us past our conditioned perspective. It’s a method based on a technique from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
Benefits of Imagination
The ancient spiritual text the Vedas says that imagination is the power through which the gods created the universe and the power that joins the human spirit with the ultimate reality. And author Philip José Farmer once said, “Imagination is like a muscle.” So, train it.
When you train your imagination, you increase your creative mind power.
Creativity is the ability to put things together to create something new. When you’re at your most creative, you find opportunities in life. And the more opportunities you have, the further you will go.
Consider the effect imagination has on these three areas of your life:
- Career: A person with a strong vision will find ways to improve their career. They will be more likely to create new things, such as products to sell.
- Dating: Yes, you can use the power of your imagination to get more dates. And it has been proven that strong imaginations are more attractive.
- Health: This is truly phenomenal. Science shows that people with strong imaginations and heightened levels of creativity are less likely to be stressed. They are more likely to enjoy good mental health. And they are better than average at problem-solving skills.
All of this shows why the creative mind is so important.
Poet Pablo Neruda famously said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”
Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
The best way to improve your imagination and strengthen your creativity is by having fun. Kids are the masters of imagination. They are always playing, learning, finding new ways to do things, and enjoying highly imaginative games, books, and movies.
If you’re a parent, spend more time with your kids. And if you don’t have kids, just try to have fun in general. Be playful and creative.
As an artist, actor, writer, poet, and journalist, I’ve used my creative mind professionally for many years. And honestly, every single time I’ve produced a new idea that knocked my socks off, it’s been while I was having a laugh. There’s a reason for that. It’s because, neurologically, feats of the imagination require neuroplasticity.
To be creative we need entropy. We need to mess things up. When we play around we become more creative. Plus, messing around helps get us past our regular old habits of thinking.
But that’s just a smart way of saying that you should let go, have fun, and open your imagination to all those beautiful possibilities that kids seem to see everywhere, but which we adults somehow forget.