Can you remember the last time you were really bored? No TV to watch, with no book to read and no cell phone available. How did you cope? Did the panic of not being connected get the better of you? Did the anxiety of not doing anything when you thought you should be doing something build within? Were you actually restful during your boredom? Can you be restful being bored? Can you even be bored?
The last time I remember being legitimately bored was when I was a kid. My TV only had 10 channels on it (maybe 20, but who is counting?) and nothing good was on. There was no on-demand programming, there was no Youtube streaming, there was no social media feeds to graze on; I was just bored. The funny thing is, I never got anxious then, I never got antsy, I may have gotten slightly irritable because my childish brain wanted to be engaged, but overall, I coped with the boredom. I just sat there thinking. Eventually, if I was home, I filled my boredom with creativity, I ran to my Lego box and started building. I became creative.
From time to time, we need to be bored.
Our brain is constantly bombarded with so many stimulants that it needs downtime to process it all. Being bored means that our brain is not being fed additional information or situations in which it needs to process. Being bored means that we are left alone with our thoughts, to daydream, to ponder or to recall. In a world of constant notifications, and on-the-go lifestyles, the demands on our grey matter have reached a critical high. We are conditioned to constantly seek input but are never able to produce output, so we get anxious and stressed because we feel like we are being over-worked. We can sometimes get scared being bored because we can not fathom spending alone time within our thoughts.
I find my greatest creativity comes from when I am “bored”. In my busy life, my definition of boredom has changed in recent years as there is never a shortage of stimulants around to occupy my thoughts, but I do find times to be bored. Most (if not all) of my blog posts are results of thoughts that started when I am taking my morning shower. I take longer than average showers in the morning, but the time spent just processing my thoughts opens up a window to my creativity. I can write an entire blog post in my head just by standing in the shower.
My connection to the creative center of my brain stems from my early days of seeking Lego to ease my boredom. While at the time I thought my Lego habit was easing my childish boredom, what it was really doing was allowing me a way to process my inner thoughts. I got good at being bored and mindful. As I was sitting on the floor building my creation, I was processing all of the thoughts that had crossed my young and inquisitive mind.
It can be very hard to seek boredom in such a connected world. And the mere thought of “seeking” boredom sounds a little ridiculous and unattainable, but we need to be bored, our brains crave it. Disconnect your brain from the feeds and reconnect it to your actual thoughts. It takes practice to resist the temptation of allowing your mind to pseudo-connect itself to the outside world through anxiety, but with deliberate practice, you can pull your mind back to process the deeper thoughts that have you have been leaving to fester without resolve. All you have to do is to allow yourself to be bored.