According to a set of studies published by Scientific American by By Oren Shapira and Nira Liberman psychological distance (anything that we do not experience as occurring now, here, and to ourselves) increases our ability to be creative.
Consider, for instance, a corn plant. A concrete representation would refer to the shape, color, taste, and smell of the plant, and connect the item to its most common use – a food product. An abstract representation, on the other hand, might refer to the corn plant as a source of energy or as a fast growing plant. These more abstract thoughts might lead us to contemplate other, less common uses for corn, such as a source for ethanol, or to use the plant to create mazes for children. What this example demonstrates is how abstract thinking makes it easier for people to form surprising connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, such as fast growing plants (corn) and fuel for cars (ethanol).
These means that we can actually take some steps to increase our creativity:
traveling to faraway places (or even just thinking about such places),
thinking about the distant future,
communicating with people who are dissimilar to us, and
considering unlikely alternatives to reality.
Perhaps the modern environment, with its increased access to people, sights, music, and food from faraway places, helps us become more creative not only by exposing us to a variety of styles and ideas, but also by allowing us to think more abstractly.
So the next time you’re stuck on a problem that seems impossible don’t give up. Instead, try to gain a little psychological distance, and pretend the problem came from somewhere very far away.