Why Boredom is Good for You
Make Life Easier
In last week’s episode, #36: 7 Productive Things to Do When Stuck in Traffic, I touched on the idea of sitting quietly while driving. I mentioned that it’s good for you to simply enjoy the silence.
This week, we’re covering why allowing your brain to wander like that is good for you: We’re talking about why boredom is good for you.
Where this started
I was in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. I noticed that, without fail, every person who walked in and sat down immediately pulled out their phones. And they weren’t doing anything productive, I’d imagine. It looked like mindless scrolling across the board.
This actually stressed me out a bit! I was worried about what this kind of trend meant for future thinking and creativity.
In an article from the University of Chicago, Prof. Sendhil Mullainathan (a Computation and Behavioral Science professor) talks about his time traveling in the past and today.
Years ago, he’d ride the bus and simply be bored. He realizes now how beneficial that was. Today, he paints a different picture:
“If I had to take a bus ride now, I’d pull out my phone. I’d listen to some podcasts. Maybe I’d check out Pinterest. But, is that good? My self-driving mind, even when left a minute by itself, says, ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’ve gotten any email. I wonder if there’s anything new on Twitter.’ My mind keeps driving me to these things, so much so that I don’t know that I focus on anything anymore.”
“We are a nation overwhelmed with an abundance of media, and it’s unhealthy.”
Reasons why boredom is good for you
1. Avoid tech addiction
From a Huffington Post article entitled 5 Reasons Boredom Can Be Good For Your Health, “Constant mindless stimulation isn’t healthy: Spending too much time using technology and social media has been linked to depression and anxiety, poor academic performance, and poor sleep.”
2. Boosts creativity
From the bestselling book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, “Take time to be bored. One time I heard a coworker say, ‘When I get busy, I get stupid.’ Ain’t that the truth. Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing. I get some of my best ideas when I’m bored, which is why I never take my shirts to the cleaners. I love ironing my shirts — it’s so boring. I almost always get good ideas.”
Kleon goes on to say, “If you’re out of ideas, wash the dishes. Take a really long walk. Stare at a spot on the wall for as long as you can. As the artist Maira Kalman says, ‘Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind.'”
Mindfulness is the simple act of being present in this moment. To focus on what’s happening right now.
Here is a quick meditation exercise you can use whenever you find yourself standing in line or waiting at your doctor’s office:
- Lightly focus on the present moment, giving full attention to breath
- As soon as you notice your mind wandering (and it will), gently note whether you’re thinking or feeling
- Return your focus to the breath
- Keep going for as long as you have
- Remember, wandering is natural. The act of returning your attention to your breath is the exercise. Each time your mind wanders, pulling your attention back to your breath is a mental rep. Without this, there would be nothing to practice.
4. Provides time for reflection
We covered the benefits of regular reflection in #33: How to Live With Purpose w/ Brendan Gallagher and #34: More on Living With Purpose: 5 Simple Strategies to Try.
Check those out for full details!
Finally, boredom gives your mind a chance to search for better ways to do things.
An article entitled Boredom Can Be Good for You from lifehack.org explains, “Boredom stimulates the search for better ways to do things like nothing else does. How many improvements in processes and ways of producing things have come about because the people doing the job are so damn bored with going over same thing again and again?
My guess is that it’s the single biggest spur to working smarter, far exceeding cost-cutting or abstract ideas of ‘constant improvement’. It’s become a truism that vast amounts of creativity and improvement are available from simply asking those who do some job how they might do it better.”
Times to be bored
- Working out
- Consider scheduling time to be bored! Put a recurring slot on your calendar!
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I wrote about it on my blog, Lightning Technology, which covers tech tips that help entrepreneurs grow their businesses!
Check out the article Why & How to Pin Tabs in Google Chrome!
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