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How to boost your creativity before breakfast

Things are going well. The sun is shining, you’ve got a full cup of hot coffee, but then you remember that big deadline you’ve got coming up. Cue lack of creativity and zero thoughts going through your brain.

But this is always the case according to a neuroscientist.John Kounios of Drexel University told the Washington Post that no matter how hard we try, deadlines put a big dampner on our creativity. Bye-bye happy face, hello panic.

Fear not, according to science, these are the best ways you can boost your creativity before breakfast. Start walking

Finally, we learn there might’ve been something beneficial to the London tube strikes – a creativity boost. Stanford researchers found that the more you move, the greater your creative output, even if you’re just wandering around your office. ‘We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo,’ study co-author Marily Oppezzo said. ‘But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.’

We’re just a few steps behind you, Marily. Don’t tidy your desk As many requests as you receive on a daily basis to declutter your desk, now there’s a reason to ignore them all.

A messy environment can actually increase creativity because it’s increasing your brain’s capacity. ‘There’s a multibillion dollar industry to help people de-clutter their lives,’ Kathleen Vohs, PhD, of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, who conducted the research said. ‘Relationship partners, employers, everyone wants you to be neat … but there may be times being messy is good, too. I think messy people feel vindicated big time.’

As Einstein allegedly said: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?’ Let’s hope the same goes for our messy wardrobes. Escape to the great outdoors

Now we know how great walking is for creativity, this latest piece of advice doesn’t come as a surprise. Research by Washington State University professor of interior design Janetta Mitchell McCoy, PhD, suggests that spending time in natural settings may boost creativity. Asking students to design their own workspaces, judges found that the Instagram-worthy, sun-drenched desks with natural wood led to more creativity.

We knew there was something in our Scandi chic obsession after all. MORE: 11 WAYS TO REACH YOUR 10,000 STEPS A DAY

Dim the lights You might be forced to illuminate your bedroom to wake up sleepy eyes, but if you’re trying to kick-start your creativity you’re better off walking around in near-darkness. German researchers found that a darkened room actually encourages free thinking and innovation.

‘Darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity,’ explains Anna Steidle of the University of Stuttgart and Lioba Werth of the University of Hohenheim. A dimly lit environment ‘elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition,’ all of which encourage innovative thinking. Now if only we had a dimmer switch at our desks.

Go get coffee We know what you’re thinking, ‘mmm coffee, great idea’. But wait.

Hold onto your cappuccino foam for a minute, we’re not talking about the greatness of coffee here, we’re talking about ambient noise. Turns out, Carrie Bradshaw and all those creative types hanging around your local Costa are onto something. Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that ambient noise (like the levels you normally find in coffee shops) actually stimulate creativity.

This sort of noise ‘increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level and thus promoting abstract processing’. In words we can all understand, this means we actually detach a little bit from reality. Keep those flat whites coming.


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5 practical uses for Elon Musk’s impractical flamethrower

Let’s start with the obvious: Elon Musk is an interesting man. He proposed “warming up” Mars for human habitation by dropping thermonuclear weapons on it. He wants to alleviate Los Angeles’ traffic congestion by building tunnel networks below the city and using them to transport cars on high-speed electric sleds.

He just sent one of his own £100,000 cars into space, presumably for the same reason that you used to melt G.I. Joes as a kid — because he could. (We’re not buying the whole “experimental payload” line.

Please. You wanted to shoot a car into space, and it’s fine. It’s your rocket.)

In a way, Elon Musk is the tech equivalent of the previous century’s big-game hunters. He’s always on the hunt for the next big trophy, the one that stops people in their tracks, the one people say he’s crazy to even attempt. Some of his “exploits” have no perceived value to anyone, but they make the rest of us want to get out there and do something equally daring.

Or maybe 50 percent as daring. Because we don’t have anything like his bail money. On Saturday, January 27, Musk opened a pre-sale for what must surely have been an idea scribbled on a bar napkin: flamethrowers.

And all the brosephs rejoiced. The flamethrower is being marketed by Musk’s new side hustle, an outfit called The Boring Company. Despite being priced at £500 (or maybe because of it), it only took five days for the first run of flamethrowers to be claimed by mayhem-makers around the globe.

These would-be Rambos may have to wait a while to get their new SB© toys, however. Certain countries’ customs agencies have stated their objections to shipping anything labeled “flamethrower.”

Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow shipment of anything called a “Flamethrower”. To solve this, we are renaming it “Not a Flamethrower”.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2018

In response, Musk floated a few name changes out on his Twitter, like “Not a Flamethrower” and “Temperature Enhancement Device.” And all the brosephs retweeted. It only made the situation better when California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago intervened on this bro-fest in classic vice principal fashion, announcing his intention to introduce legislation to ban sales of the flamethrower in the state of California. In response, Musk posted a faux-PSA on Instagram, showing himself running while lighting the flamethrower.

The caption reads: “Don’t do this. Also, I want to be clear that a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don’t buy one.

Unless you like fun.” And all the brosephs bowed down. The flamethrower is drawing criticism from more than just party-pooper politicians.

Many say it more resembles an Airsoft rifle that functions like a blowtorch, making for a certain buzzkill on those visions of Rambo grandeur.

Or maybe “Temperature Enhancement Device” — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2018

Whatever, man. It’s a handheld gun that shoots fire.

So maybe it’s not a real flamethrower by the strictest definition. So maybe it doesn’t shoot as far as a certain Arizona-based company’s flamethrowers. There are still lots of ways to put the Boring Company’s latest to to good, even practical use.

And we’ve highlighted our top five. (And no, we don’t mean roasting nuts. That was a dumb joke, Elon.

Stick to your strengths.)


1: Home Security

Picture a burglar breaking into your house. Now picture yourself coming at that burglar from the top of the stairs, swinging a flaming rifle. It’s enough to scare any criminal straight.

Even if you should hurt yourself in the effort (as is entirely likely with such reckless use of the flamethrower), no intruder wants to f*** with the guy writhing on the floor wrapped in flames. Not unless he’s as crazy as you are.

No.2: De-icing a Driveway

Salt ruins your wheel wells. Sand is a pain to clean up.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if your driveway was just dry? Pop in your earbuds, put on some death metal, and go to town on that slab of concrete. That new “dad/husband/brother/roommate of the year” coffee mug is practically yours.


3: In the Kitchen

Whether you’re finishing off a vat of creme brulee, or adding some nice singe marks to an entire roasted pig, the flamethrower will give you Costco-level value for your time and effort. Love that smoked flavor effect in your cocktail? Treat the entire neighborhood by felling a tree, surrounding it with highball glasses filled with whisky, then unleashing the flame and quickly tenting it with a heavy-duty tarp.

Wait about 60 seconds for the flavor to infuse, then finish with bitters and a twist. Be sure to save a couple for the firefighters when they show up.


4: Clearing Unwanted Foliage

Honestly, this is probably why Assemblyman Santiago took such issue with the Boring Company’s flamethrower promotion. In the wake of the gnarliest wildfire season ever, a 6-foot jet of flame is the last thing a California homeowner needs for lawncare.

But for those in more humectant climates, the flamethrower can make quick work out of Bermuda grass, kudzu vine, and that backyard vegetable garden that you sort of forgot about. Plus, it’s a well-known fact that soil pH, carbon, and nutrient levels increase after burning. So you’re not just saving time, you’re actually improving your yard. (Memorize that for when the homeowner’s association guy comes by.)


5: Getting Attention

This may well have been the inspiration for the flamethrower sale in the first place. The Boring Company’s first venture was selling ball caps. Some speculate the flamethrower thing is just a way flashier ball cap, i.e., a stunt designed to raise visibility around Musk’s Boring Company.

Because, you know, even Elon Musk is afraid of being forgotten about. Point is, the whole point of a domestic flamethrower is to draw attention. We suggest undertaking any (or all) of the previous four uses on behalf of someone you’ve been working up the courage to talk to.

De-ice their driveway. Clear their front garden out for spring planting. Think of it as a John Cusack holding the boombox over his head type of move, but way more practical.

If they don’t appreciate it, they don’t deserve you.

Editors’ Recommendations

Why every woman should rent a cottage for a weekend by herself, according to a seasoned pro

As self-care or ‘prescription’ holidays quickly become a rising wellbeing trend for 2018, travel writer Millie Kerr shares her advice on why a countryside cottage is the perfect place to start…Ever since I was little, I’ve fantasised about living alone in a country cottage. There would be a fire crackling through the night, a dogand cat at my feet, and stacks of books beside my quilted bed. But for a London resident like me — a person who’s half countryside introvert, half urban extrovert — the fantasy never became a reality.

My social life and career tether me to London, but life in the Big Smoke can wear me down, so I’ve learned that solitary trips to the countryside — where I can play house in a cottage like the one from my dreams — are the perfect way to relax and recalibrate.

There’s something about being alone in nature, in a place where distractions are scant, that quiets the mind. Here, I share my advice on how to arrange and execute the perfect single-traveller country cottage getaway. You’ll never look back…

HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT PROPERTY THAT’S VETTED AND PROFESSIONAL In my experience, it helps to do a little planning in advance — right down to the details like where you can buy groceries or rent a car — while remaining open to spontaneity. If you’re anything like me, you need to feel comfortable to relax, and there’s nothing worse than discovering that your Airbnb or something of the sort is a far cry from the luxury pics you perused online.

At least with a hotel, you can complain if things aren’t up to snuff, which could lead to a refund or upgrade. With many vacation rentals, you’re on the hook. Millie’s tips on using Airbnb:

  • Only book properties with 4-5 stars
  • Look for ones with 10+ reviews
  • Use “Superhosts”
  • Message owners first to ask questions about the property

In remote stretches of the English countryside, charming Airbnbs are few and far between, but don’t fret: this scarcity isn’t all bad.

There are endless country hotels and cosy B&Bs, not to mention some of the best vacation rental companies I’ve come across — some of which cater to solo travellers.

Both Mulberry Cottages and Premier Cottages have petite homes in their collections, but my all-time favourite is Unique Home Stays, whose portfolio includes 163 privately owned homes across the UK. A good many sleep one to two people, making them perfect for solitary holidays. Speak to a travel adviser if you need help deciding on a cottage, and be sure to ask about dog-friendly options if you’re bringing your hound.

ESCAPE 1: The Parisian, Rutland I was midway through a Cambridge Masters programme when I checked into The Parisian to knock out five essays. Within seconds of stepping into the stables-turned-cottage, I knew I was going to have a wonderful stay.

The two-story house was light and airy, the perfect size for one, and had a private terrace where I sipped coffee each morning. There were little luxuries, too — a bathroom skylight, an alpaca duvet keeping me warm at night, and a welcome hamper with fresh treats and Prosecco. The owners of The Parisian recently decided to keep the cottage to themselves but, for a similar property in the same area, see the Dragonwood Boat House.

(Image Credit: Unique Homestays) (Image Credit: Unique Homestays) ESCAPE 2: Seal apartment, Norfolk coast

Several months later, when I needed another escape from my life in Cambridge, I headed towards the Norfolk Coast, where I’d discovered a collection of five privately owned cottages. I stumbled upon Sharrington Hall, Cartshed Cottages using Google search terms like, “luxury, charming, cottage” and “Norfolk Coast.” My flat, Seal, had two floors: like the Parisian, the ground floor featured a kitchen and living area, and the bathroom and bedroom were upstairs. Seal also had outdoor space, but because all five of the Cartshed cottages share one large structure, things were a little less private.

It didn’t matter, however, because I spent most of my time exploring the region. (Image Credit: Cartshed Cottages) (Image Credit: Cartshed Cottages, Sherrington Hall)

ESCAPE 3: Chewton Glen treehouse, Hampshire When I travel alone for one to two nights, I prefer to stay in hotels, and I’m always on the lookout for properties that have standalone structures that make me feel like I’m in a house of my own. Several months ago, as summer turned to autumn, I spent an amazing night in one of Chewton Glen’s modern treehouses.

I watched the sun set from my elevated perch and stargazed from the outdoor hot tub when the night air turned cool. (Imagre Credit: Chewton Glenn) (Image Credit: Chewton Glenn)

FUTURE ESCAPES: This spring, I’m checking into one of Daylesford Farm’s cottages, and on my wish list are several of Unique Home Stays’ Cornwall rentals (see the Atlanta Cottage below), as well as this newly opened tiny house called The Nook, available through Canopy and Stars, an hour from London. (Image Credit: Canopy and Stars)

WHAT TO BRING (besides your PJs) I like to find out what the rental offers before I pack. Does it have a stereo, or should I bring my mini speaker?

What’s the kitchen like? Is it stocked with basics, or do I pick up milk, eggs, and butter from a grocery store before arriving? I always bring:

  • Books
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Walking boots and/or trainers
  • My laptop
  • A notebook for recording trip notes and personal reflections.

    These focused scribbles seem manic on the page but are often more productive than all of my urban brainstorms combined.

  • Sometimes I travel with my own coffee.
  • If I’m driving, I bring a few healthy snacks from home. But I always find a grocery store or farm shop near my rental and stock up before night one.

I love being out and about during the day, but at night, I feel awkward dining in restaurants alone, plus I don’t like driving in the dark in unfamiliar places. Besides, cooking in a foreign kitchen makes the place feel like your own.

Suddenly, you’re the resident, not the traveller. And isn’t that the point?

HOW TO FILL YOUR DAYS WHEN AWAY BY YOURSELF I can be as lazy as my 13-year-old cat, contentedly lounging around for hours, and some of my solitary countryside days are spent this way.

I read in bed, take long baths, and watch movies at night, but when I’m in a new place, I also love to explore. Sometimes I know what I want to do: Maybe a friend provided recommendations; perhaps I’ve read a book about the region. But, more often than not, I arrive a blank slate.

As soon as I’ve checked out my digs, I refer to the recommendation list or binder provided by the owner. I find that owners take the role of local expert seriously — this is especially true of those working with top-tier companies like Unique Home Stays. “The best pub and restaurant recommendations come from owners”

The best pub and restaurant recommendations come from owners, and hosts also point out country walks, cute shops, and activities you might not otherwise discover. Whenever I can, I cross-reference their suggestions against other sources: TripAdvisor, articles like this one, and local blogs. I also love visiting National Trust properties, so I use this digital map to see what’s in my vicinity.

When I arrived in Lincolnshire, I planned to spend 90% of my time inside The Parisian writing, but I couldn’t resist wandering around the farmland adjacent to the property, nor the lure of Stamford itself, which represented Meryton in the 2005 Pride and Prejudicefilm. I drove into Stamford several times, soaking up its Georgian architecture, and paid a visit to the exquisite Burghley House, which has been named one of the ten “Treasure Houses of England.” (Note: the house and gardens are currently off-limits but reopen in March 2018.) The owners of The Parisian, who live in the old rectory next door and invited me over for tea, told me about the Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

I walked part of the lagoon’s perimeter one afternoon before driving back to my cottage as an orange sun set over bucolic, sheep-filled pastures. (Image Credit: Millie Kerr) I had been to the Norfolk Broads and several Norfolk beaches when I spent my long weekend at Seal Cottage but arrived open to spontaneity.

The hosts provided a long list of recommendations (and a basket of the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever tasted), so I asked them to reveal their favourites when we met in person. They said I couldn’t miss Holkham Bay, and pointed me toward Wiveton Hall Cafe, which has farm-to-table cuisine and strawberry picking, plus the Kings Head for a pub lunch. While driving to the beach, I spotted signs for a wildflower centre near the town of Holt, so I ventured there the following morning.

I wandered around the gardens snapping photos before noticing a leaflet broadcasting an owl ringing the next day. I’m a wildlife fanatic, so I knew I had to return before driving back to Cambridge, and the spontaneous discovery became the highlight of my trip. Do you feel inspired?


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