5 Benefits to Being Bored

Mar 10, 2021

If you were born in 1995 or later, you have never known a world without the internet – weird huh?

Anyone born at least 10 years before that can honestly say that they are the last crop of people to remember what it was like to live in a world without internet-driven technology influencing our every move, when being bored, truly meant being bored...but were we? 

When I look back at my childhood, my time was spent going to school, doing homework, hanging out with my sisters and my friends. Planned activities such as piano lessons, tap or Irish dancing occupied a few hours of my week. Television was limited, not only by my parents (an hour a day and one more on weekends) but we also only got 5 or 6 channels, so it was never the focus unless there was a special event or a favorite family show. We went on family vacations but only for a few weeks in the summer months. Other than that, a big trip might have been to my Dad’s office or to the Mall.

So, as it seems there was a lot of unstructured time left to be bored…

I remember some of my “boredom” activities as a child were extracting weeds from the lawn, playing basketball in the driveway (which had its share of running as our driveway was on a hill, and our house on a hill, so if you missed the ball, you were running), washing the family car, drawing, cleaning my room or just lying on the grass watching the clouds animals go by. As kids, my sisters and I used to create stores mimicking the limited places we would go with our mom. The fabric store we created in our basement, had inventory (fabric scraps that we packaged with paper and priced), a cash register made from boxes, buttons or acorn tops for money and we rotated being the customer. This kept us busy for hours!

We walked or rode our bikes everywhere imagining that we were riding horses or driving cars. I never tracked my steps or even thought about counting my calories – we were just active because it was something to do!

Take a moment and think back to your childhood and what you did when you were bored. What creative things did you do with your time? Even though you most likely had your moments when expressing “I’m Bored” loudly to your parents took up a couple of seconds of your time, you most likely found things to do – none of it relying on technology or your parents for suggestions.

The average person is not used to stillness and boredom in the 21st century – the accessibility of technology for kids and adults alike, often takes the place of other more creative activities and creates an illusion of filling time and quelling boredom. 

Technology has forever changed the course of humanity in that we may have forgotten how to be bored. How can we be bored, there’s so much stimulation? But distraction through video games or scrolling through social media are only short-term stimulation solutions that are usually unproductive in the long run. Did you know that the only people who refer to their customers as users are drug dealers and the companies that create social media apps and games? There is a reason for that, they know that once you start, it’s hard to quit. The average person spends 2 years of their life on Facebook, add gaming apps or other social media platforms and where does that leave you?

Boredom can be a great source of tremendous unhappiness, restlessness and anxiety for some. It can lead to some very negative outcomes as we choose stimulation that is not always in our best interests (such as drinking, gambling, binge-eating and late night gaming). The official definition for the word ‘Bored” is “feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.”

Often when we are bored, it’s a signal that we are overloaded or overwhelmed. When we are bored we aimlessly move from one thing to another searching for stimulation. According to scientists, when you constantly shift from one thing to another, it actually depletes your neural resources – or in laymen’s terms, shrinks your brain!

But let’s turn that around. What if you were to use your boredom instead, as a catalyst for positive change?

Here are 5 Benefits to Boredom. Ways you can reframe boredom in a positive way without technology, to improve your life – not sabotage it.

  1. Boredom ignites ideas and increases creativity because sitting still with our thoughts watching the clouds go by can actually bring us more clarity and focus then if we rely on the constant stimulation technology gives us. Boredom allows us to tap into our subconscious brain and spurs us into thinking of new and different things.
  2. Boredom makes you curious by motivating you to discover new adventures, overturn new stones and try new things. Some pretty neat things have been invented while the inventor was “bored” – did you know that apparently fireworks were invented when a cook was bored somewhere in China about 2,000 years ago!
  3. Boredom is a catalyst for change – a signal that you are maybe not doing in life what you should be doing. (Here’s a link to my blog about Passion and Purpose.) If your job or your life is boring, then maybe it’s time for a change and that your new purpose is just waiting to be a part of your life? Did you know that being bored is actually essential for goal setting? Boredom is very future-focused you know.
  4. Boredom can improve mental health. This is a bit of a juxtaposition to the connection of mental health, boredom and the pandemic, but if you are aware of your boredom, you have the ability to be aware of the impact it’s having on your mental health and flip it around to instead be grateful that your normally overloaded brain is getting a break from the over stimulation that it normally gets.
  5. Boredom leads to better self-control. Even though it may seem like time is dragging on, in the end, it is a temporary state. By simply reminding yourself that boredom is temporary, and you are in control of it, your mind is more willing find the way out if you just give it some guidance.

Through reframing your boredom, you can actually expand your brain not shrink it. It’s worth being bored sometimes!

Check out this really neat project called Bored and Brilliant that helps you to detach from your phone and spend more time thinking creatively through 6 different challenges.

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