We’ve all felt it, that restless sensation stirring inside when we can’t find anything fun or exciting to do. Pets get it, too. Being bored is a feeling that everyone experiences (even your pets), whether it’s at work, sitting in class, or just lounging on the couch at home. We all know that feeling of restlessness. Unfortunately, boredom is often riddled with negative connotations of being lazy. Boredom is a necessary pass time to help stimulate the creative mind and ultimately improves one’s mental health. This is true for kids and adults alike.

What is Boredom?

Boredom is what we see happen in ourselves when we have a lack of stimulation. It makes those last ten minutes of e-learning seem like an eternity, or even as if time has stopped. Boredom can often be confused with relaxing, but in fact, these two are entirely different concepts. As Art Markman, a professor at the University of Texas, states, “When people have low arousal and there is not much happening in the world, then they often feel relaxed. When they have high arousal, though, they have the energy they would like to devote to something, but they cannot find anything engaging” (Markman, 2019). This is the key difference that separates the two. What makes being bored seem so awful is the fact that we have the energy, but have no outlet. We, as active beings have this need to be in a constant state of engagement, but often are unable to find an activity that suits our needs. When we find ourselves board we tend to find ourselves running to the pantry, buying another unneeded gadget, or even scrolling through our social media feed for the tenth time in a row. However, despite the negative definition that is attached to boredom, there is a positive side to this state of mind that is still being researched.

Boredom and Creativity

When we find ourselves being bored, we are often trying to find something to stimulate our minds and fill that void. We associate boredom with this feeling of restlessness, when in fact we can see it as a catalyst for action, which can promote our own creativity. During a study that was published by the journal Academy of Management Discoveries, it was found that “…people who had gone through a boredom-inducing task — methodically sorting a bowl of beans by color, one by one — later performed better on an idea-generating task than peers who first completed an interesting craft activity” (Ducharme, 2019). Following the mundane activities, participants were later tasked with brainstorming excuses for being late that wouldn’t make them look bad. Boredom has the ability to enable our creative thinking by moving us into a state of daydream, which then allows our minds to wander and create without distractions.

Boredom and Our Mental Health

Our thoughts are being overloaded with social media, texts, and information due to our societal attachments to technology. During this time of crisis it makes sense that our use of technology has skyrocketed with the need to connect to love ones and friends as well as go about our daily tasks at hand for work and school from the safety of our homes. Unfortunately, this means that our minds are on a constant overload of information that can result in stress and even depression, “Attention uses one’s limited cognitive resources for productive activities. So taking a break can be a valuable opportunity to help our overloaded brains relax and alleviate stress” (Heshmat, 2020). Now more than ever we have to be aware of how we’re feeling and what can affect those feelings. Taking a moment to step away from our screens and breath can allow us to calm that busy noise in our brain. Leading us to stop, focus, and think. Lessening our stress and anxieties which can help us find new goals or hobbies to take part in for the sake of our happiness.

Conclusion (Wrap-Up, Tips & Tricks)

Allowing ourselves to be bored can provide us with a brief moment of escape from our day to day lives that are so often filled with endless texts, emails, and social media that overload our brains with stimulation and information. We have to learn to be able to leave these stressors long enough to allow ourselves to feel bored and reap the benefits of that boredom. But how do we do that? Try to find something to do that isn’t necessarily mentally stimulating: go for a walk on a familiar path, lift some weights, or sit with your eyes closed and allow your mind to wander. All of these can help you disconnect from your surrounding distractions and may just bring you that spark of creativity or sense of peace you’ve been waiting for. This is universally true for adults, kids and animals alike.

Written by: Nathan Biggs / The Driskill Foundation

Additional References

Kumar, S. (2019, July 19). [The Creative Brain]. Retrieved 2020, from https://medium.com/@sathishvista/the-magic-of-creativity-e0f45ace8bbb

Rosenwald, M. (2020, March 28). [Two Girls on Couch Texting]. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/lifestyle/coronavirus-pandemic-a-boom-time-for-researchers-who-study-boredom/?sba=AAS