As many of you know, I’m a great proponent of taking a short break from an intense conversation when you feel stumped or when your emotions threaten to interfere with your best thinking. Now there’s even more support for the fact that rational or creative thoughts will pop up if you leave the room.
The best way to understand this is to back into it. According to “This Just In: The Latest Science on the Brain,” there’s a reason why we get up to fetch something from another room, then can’t remember what we went after once we get there. It’s the act of passing through a doorway.
University of Notre Dame research indicates that doorways form “event boundaries” in our brains. We associate certain memories with locations. We all know that, when we can’t remember why we came into a different room, if we return to the place where the idea occurred to us, the memory returns as well.
What this says to me is that we can make positive use of this phenomenon by reversing it. When you want your mind to take a different turn, whether for creative inspiration or to move past unhelpful emotions, walking through a doorway should help.
I’m not just speculating here. I have often found that, when I am stumped on a project of work and go into the next room for a drink, inspiration occurs before I’ve finished filling my glass. And when a conversation becomes tense, and I leave the room for a break, I am often amazed at how quickly my emotions settle and a sensible way forward occurs to me. Now I know why.
So the next time you can’t think of how to proceed with a conversation, or any other project or problem, get up and move. Move through a door, and close it behind you for good measure. You’ll find fresh thinking on the other side.
 The Oprah Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 11, Nov. 2012.
Fascinating. Thanks, Margaret. I’m going to pay attention to this. I often get up and walk around or go downstairs when I can’t think.
I’m so glad you find it helpful, Margaret, and would be interested to hear what you notice the next few times you get up and move.