How to be Bored (the Right Way) by@edemgold

How to be Bored (the Right Way)

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Edem Gold

I turn complex concepts into stories. Got anything cool you want to talk to me about? email me: [email protected]

Boredom is one of the biggest problems of modernity. Or is it?

It makes you scroll through your Facebook feed looking for nothing in particular, makes you go on Twitter and start looking for stuff to tweet about (I have been there) and last but not least it makes you an Instagram zombie (that is a real thing).

But what if we got boredom all wrong? What if it isn't that evil shadow hunting us every day but rather it's a good thing?

In this article, I will talk to you about how boredom actually helps make you more creative.

Before we get into how cool boredom let us clarify a few concepts.

What Exactly is Boredom?

According to Wikipedia, boredom is an emotional and psychological state where an individual is left with nothing to do. So it is basically that point in your day where you just sit there without anything to do.

Now I'm sure you're thinking...

Why Should I Care About Boredom

Boredom is not some abstract topic -- like quantum physics or astrophysics--it's something we experience every day.

In fact, according to the famous writer Maggie Koerth-Baker, the study of boredom is a new and exciting frontier in psychology with psychologists asking questions like: What is boredom exactly? How can it be measured? Why is it linked to so many psychological problems?

Studies into boredom are just beginning but scientists are already making headway and finding interesting things in regards to this topic which you can read about here.

I bet you think boredom only happens in one way but in fact, they are 5 different...

Types of Boredom

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I wanted to keep this article as short as possible so I'll just give a general description of the types of boredom out there, but I provided links to more explanatory material for those interested in knowing more.

  • Indifferent Boredom: People who experience this type of boredom generally just want to chill. According to the Research Release "The indifferently bored feel relaxed and fatigued-but-cheerful. They are generally indifferent to the world and want to withdraw".

  • Calibrating Boredom: In this type of boredom, humans don't know what they want to do in that moment, so their mind just keeps on floating from idea to idea. You can read more on this type of boredom here.

  • Searching Boredom: In this form of boredom people know they are bored and are actively searching for what to do. You can read more about it here.

  • Reactant boredom: This type of boredom has probably been experienced by anyone who has ever attended a formal education facility (a school).

    This type of boredom is more of a reaction to events happening in your immediate surroundings. Like when a boring teacher is just talking and talking. you can read more about it here.

  • Apathetic Boredom: This type of boredom is awkward. It is the sort of boredom experienced because of a lack of emotions. This is the boredom you feel when you're empty inside. You can read more about it here.

So, why does any of this matter?

How Boredom Helps

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According to a study published recently in the journal of Academy of Management Discoveries, people discover their best "aha!", "Eureka!", "Oh my God, it's so clear to me now!", "Why didn't I think of this earlier!" moments when they are doing 'boring' tasks like doing the laundry, washing the dishes, taking a shower (not sure this is a boring task, but then again who says it isn't ;) ).

In the study, people who performed a boring task - methodically sorting different colour of beans by their color one by one - later performed better on an idea-generating task than peers who then completed an interesting craft activity.

(The task is to come up with excuses for being late that wouldn't make someone look bad). The bored folks outperformed the artists in terms of idea quantity and quality, as ranked by objective outsiders who allocated uniqueness scores to each excuse.

Before we look at how boredom helps, let's find out...

How Boredom Impacts the Brain

According to research by Neuroscientist Alicia Walf, to improve your brain health, you must let yourself be bored from time to time.

Alicia Walf's research has long focused on neuroplasticity as it relates to behavior/cognition and health of body and brain. She studies the brain mechanisms of stress and reproductive hormones as they relate to behavior and cognition, brain plasticity, and brain health over the lifespan.

Specific areas of Walf’s expertise are memory, emotions, and social interactions and how these functions not only arise from the brain but change the brain itself.

The brain processes information through neural networks consisting of neurons.

To understand how the brain works check out my article on Brain-Machine Interfaces by clicking here.

The neurons in our brain form new connections with the data the brain gets through the senses.

The brain forms different connections when we are bored because the work we are doing is automatic and robotic stuff like washing dishes, setting the washing machine etc. This allows the mind to wander and access parts of the brain in a new way.

But if we try to alleviate the boredom by scrolling through our Facebook feed, thinking about those pictures we saw on Instagram or thinking about what to tweet we are not letting our brains form those connections, instead we giving the brain more stuff to process.

The Importance of Boredom

Boredom Sparks Creativity

At its core, boredom is a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied.

If we can’t find that, our minds will create it. As demonstrated by the new study and plenty of others before it, boredom can enable creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander and daydream.

There’s no other way of getting that stimulation, so you have to go into your head. You may be surprised by what you come up with when you do.

Boredom Helps Improve Mental Health

Daydreaming can be quite a respite and provide a brief escape from day-to-day life.

But it’s also beneficial to simply step away from screens, work and other stressors long enough to feel bored. Studies have shown, for example, that modern tools including work emails, social media, and dating apps can strain mental health — so taking a break can be a valuable opportunity to recharge.

Get Your Bored On

It’s important not to confuse boredom with relaxation.

A purposefully tranquil activity, such as yoga or meditation, likely doesn’t meet the definition of trying and failing to find stimulation.

To tap into true boredom, It is suggested you pick an activity that requires little or no concentration — like walking a familiar route or even just sitting with your eyes closed — and simply letting your mind wander, without music or stimulation to guide it.

It’s also crucial to unplug during this time, our cultural attachment to our phones, is paradoxically both destroying our ability to be bored, and preventing us from ever being truly entertained.

We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems, people can “become addicted to the constant dopamine hit of new and novel content that phones provide. Our tolerance for boredom just changes completely, and we need more and more to stop being bored.

In essence, to be bored you need to stop all mentally tasking tasks and do something that doesn't require any thought.

Thank you for being with me on this journey, now go out there and be bored!

Previously published here.

Editor’s note: Some claims in this article refer to comments commonly made in pop psychology and may not actually have academic peer-reviewed research to back them up. Either way, interesting ideas.

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