We can get more out of “doing nothing” than we think.
“How was your week?”
“Ah, super busy. Crazy busy. How about yours?”
Does this sound familiar to you? My coaching clients often answer this way — in fact, “busy” may have become one of the most frequent responses.
Some people say “busy” with pride, some say it with complaint or helplessness. “Busy” has become such an easy, generic, go-to word to describe our lives.
Being busy is often associated with positive traits such as being interesting, productive and efficient. It has never been easier to stay busy— but it’s also a great strategy to escape reality or ourselves.
On the other hand, the word “boredom” often has negative connotations such as laziness, emptiness and a lack of purpose. However, it’s important to know the difference between “boredom’ and “being bored”.
Boredom VS Being bored
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “boredom” as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest”, while “bored” is defined as “filled with or characterized by boredom”.
Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K, defines boredom as “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied”.
But what if you can enjoy boredom without being bored?
Boredom is a clean slate. Being bored is escapism — it’s a mental state that we choose to avoid self-reflection. — Gustavo Razzetti
Being Bored is an unpleasant emotion we try to get rid of by seeking external pleasures. Since emotions are created by thoughts, being bored usually indicates there are negative thoughts we need to take care of.
But Boredom holds space for our introspection and creation — it gives birth to possibilities. We can make conscious choices to create boredom in our lives for regeneration.
The Benefits of Boredom
If you associate boredom with a lack of ambition or productivity, think again. It may seem like a standstill but, when your mind is allowed to wander, it can activate your brain to help you achieve more.
Check out these benefits:
Increased productivity: A 2018 study found boredom helped boost individual productivity on an idea-generation task.
Increased creativity: According to psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma, “our brain has a way of searching for an interesting, stimulating activity, and if we can’t find it in the external environment, we are going to create it.”
Be more goal-oriented: Boredom is an emotional signal that we are not doing what we want to be doing (Elpidorou, 2014), therefore helps us shift gears into goals and projects that are more fulfilling.
Improved self-awareness: When we run out of things to keep us entertained, we have to go inward and pay attention to what’s happening underneath our emotions.
“Boredom is more than just the feeling we get when our minds are insufficiently stimulated. It’s a sign that our capacity to act as authors of our own lives has been challenged or constricted.” — Eric Cortellesa
These benefits of boredom point towards a more interesting life — as well as a more interesting you.
3 Ways to Reap These Benefits
Don’t run away from boredom.
This might seem like a silly statement, but many people unconsciously run from boredom. Netflix, social media, food, porn…these activities are readily available to keep you stimulated and heading away from boredom.
When you feel the urge to resort to those things, stop, and let boredom work magic on you.
Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It’s the last privilege of a free mind — Gayatri Devi
Say yes to daydreaming.
Daydreaming is the secret weapon of boosting creativity. Allow yourself to daydream and if you’re struck by an idea, record it. Later, you may be able to turn this idea into a product.
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. — Neil Gaiman
Unplug to recharge.
Intentionally create a stimulus-free/low stimulus environment by unplugging from external sources. This forces our brain to create by making connections with its own information and resources, instead of passively receiving external information.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…Including you. — Anne Lamott
Boredom is powerful for your personal growth. So ask yourself: Are you running away from boredom, or making the most out of it?
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