Here's Why Boredom Makes You a Smarter Person
Work + Life Balance

Here's Why Boredom Makes You a Smarter Person

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN BORED IN THE PAST WEEK?
Most of us would probably answer with something along the lines of “Well, I’m so busy, I don’t have time to be bored.” The truth is that even though we all experience fleeting moments of boredom, we usually don’t feel comfortable admitting it.

Boredom is just one of those things that’s frowned on, like bragging about our own accomplishments or discussing how much money we make.

As a result, we try to fill every minute of our day with activities and distractions that will prevent us from having to endure even one dull moment. Waiting for the bus? Grab your smartphone. Driving somewhere? Listen to a podcast. Eating a meal? Turn on the television.

Of course, it’s no mystery why boredom is so unpopular—the feeling that sets in when there’s absolutely nothing to occupy your attention is uncomfortable and sometimes downright excruciating. But as unpleasant as it is, research suggests that boredom can actually be quite beneficial, at least in small doses.

Schedule some time to engage in a passive activity. You’ll probably space out a bit—and that's exactly the point.

THE BENEFITS OF BOREDOM

Numerous studies indicate that when it’s allowed to run its course, boredom can help us be more creative, more productive, and more goal-oriented.

In one study carried out by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire, participants were asked to take part in a boring activity (writing down or reading out telephone numbers) followed by a creative task (coming up with novel ways to use polystyrene cups).

Sure enough, participants who completed the boring task were more imaginative when it came to thinking of new uses for disposable cups than those who jumped straight into the creative task.

Another 2015 study found that contrary to popular belief, daydreaming can actually help us succeed at appointed tasks, and research published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition shows that when we allow our minds to wander, we’re more likely to think about the future, which can help us plan and anticipate our goals.

how to harness being bored at work (and get super, amazingly creative)

Considering the potential benefits, it makes sense to allow some boredom into our daily lives, whether that means spending less time using gadgets designed to keep us busy or actively seeking out less stimulating activities that will give us more time alone with our thoughts.

Not sure how to do this? Here are a few ideas for embracing boredom.

Engage in passive activities

In the University of Central Lancashire study, the group that had been asked to read telephone numbers was even more creative than the one that wrote them down.

Passive activities, or those which allow our minds to wander, are more effective at boosting creativity than those that require a lot of focus. Assign yourself one. For instance, rather than setting aside time to make a to-do list, schedule an unstructured 30 minutes to listen to music without working on anything else. You’ll probably space out a bit—and that's exactly the point.

Do something you consider boring

We all have our own definition of “boring,” which means an activity one person loves might seem completely dull to another.

If you wouldn’t normally watch old black and white movies or listen to classical music because you consider it boring, give it a try for a change. You may not be swayed from your original opinion, but it will give your mind a chance to wander.

Have more tech-free moments

Most of us have become so accustomed to using smartphones, e-readers, or other gadgets to get through the dullest parts of our day that we just can’t imagine what our daily commute or lunch hour would be like without them.

But if you want to reap the benefits of boredom, try making a conscious effort to use your gadgets only when you really need to. Turn off the radio on your commute and sit in silence. Or go for a walk or run without your iPhone. You might be surprised at what happens when you endure the mundane instead of trying to avoid it.
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Have you used boredom as part of your creative process? Let us know in the comments.