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Boredom affects us all at some point. And recently we’ve all been in a position where our mind has been desperately searching for things to occupy our time. Outside of our normal working hours (remember it was WORK from home, not STAY home), we’ve been forced to put our social rituals and routines on hold.
Once we’d finished watching every episode of the Lion King and binged on White Lines our minds searched desperately for some stimulation – and that’s where our creativity had a chance to come to life. The fact is a bored mind is a creative mind (why do you think I’m writing this now…)
If you’ve got children, or ever been one, you’ll know that the best games and fantasies come from having nothing to do. This lack of stimulation gives your imagination the freedom to create new ways to occupy your time – and that’s basically when we all become super creative.
At its core, boredom is “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied,” says Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. Mann is the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good.
Boredom can enable creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to drift and daydream. To reach peak boredom, choose an activity that requires little or no concentration — I find vacuum cleaning does it for me, but you could choose your own boring task or activity, like going for a long walk along a familiar route, or even just sitting in a silent room with your eyes closed and allowing your mind to wander.
It’s also crucial to ‘log-off’ during this time. Our attachment to our devices is paradoxically both destroying our ability to be bored, and preventing us from ever being truly entertained.
Following a study published recently in the journal Academy of Management Discoveries, Mann says, “We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems”, adding that people are addicted to the constant dopamine hit of new and novel content that our devices provide.
The next time you find yourself in a lengthy social distancing line for groceries or getting frustrated at the lack of new Netflix series, or even sitting in a boring Zoom/Teams/Skype meeting allow yourself the luxury of boredom. Embrace the fact there’s nothing to do, log out of Facebook and Instagram and allow your creative mind to take over. It will change your mood for the better and improve your creative performance.
If you need me, I’ll be upstairs vacuuming the bedrooms…