Boredom is rarely seen as a positive thing, but can there be positives to being bored?
In an article, The Benefits of Boredom: How to Stop Distracting Yourself and Get Creative Ideas Again. (in Creativity, Neuroscience, Psychology | 7 November 2019 at openculture.com), the author examines how modern day on demand distractions have possibly led to an eradication of boredom. If we’ve got a few minutes to wait for a train, or need to queue at the post office, then we no longer just stand and wait; we whip out our mobile phones, check emails, have a quick browse, play a game, listen to music. Anything other than just wait patiently. Going for a walk or a run, cycling or exercising? Get the headphones on and listen to music or a podcast. There is always someone or something there on our screens, in our headphones. Selfies, gossip, advertisements, news, songs. Sensory overload at any available moment.
The article suggests that all these distractions are not just stifling creativity, but also not allowing our minds to wander, to collect our thoughts, or even to communicate with other people, in real life.
It’s like we have developed such a fear of boredom that as soon as we have a free minute, we automatically reach for something to do, or read, or listen to. This of course is nothing new. Children have always complained when they are bored. The tedium of long car journeys; the ‘are we there yet?’ pleas from the kids. As far back as 1911, the poet W H Davies penned the poem, Leisure, which has the lines:
“A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
The exaggerated or irrational fear of boredom has even got its own name – thaasophobia – the fear of sitting still, being idle
Allegedly, W H Davies meant this as a warning how modern life can affect how we live in the world around us. So, little has changed in that respect, but perhaps nowadays there are so many more distractions.
So maybe what we perceive to be boring episodes could become productive, especially now when so many of us are isolated at home during lockdown. We can try and learn to use the silent spaces and the long journeys to our benefit. To allow ourselves time to think, to ponder, to let thoughts into our minds. In the above-mentioned article, psychologist Sandi Mann says that, “once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place.”
To find creativity in ourselves is to find joy. That creative part of us that did that sketch by the river, the delicious meal we cooked, the poem we wrote, the scarf we knitted. Everyone can create something. Even a kind thought or deed is a creative act. And it will certainly make us smile, or feel good about ourselves, and others.