It seems that boredom has nearly reached extinction. With digital devices always in hand, we are constantly connected to news, entertainment, and social interaction without having to make extra time in our schedules. This ability to easily absorb stimulation has left us with a hypersensitivity to empty time—driving us to fill every moment with something in a desperate attempt to avoid the profound discomfort of boredom.
In this digital age, we equate boredom with the absence of activity or connection. Waiting for even just a few seconds can make us feel antsy, and we reach for our smartphones or tablets instead of taking a deep breath and soaking in the sights, sounds, and smells around us.
But the constant online and digital stimulation and lack of boredom may actually be just as threatening to our well-being as online predators and identity theft. Along with teaching ourselves and our kids how to stay safe online, we should also start learning how to unplug and embrace the idea of being bored.
Why Being Bored Matters
Yearning for days when we were more likely to feel bored seems counterintuitive, but we miss out on so much when we fill every moment with digital stimulation. And science is starting to back up the idea that a little bit of boredom can lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive life:
· Boredom helps stimulate creativity. When our minds wander, we are more likely to come up with new ideas and innovative approaches to problems and tasks.
· Boredom can help us set goals. If we give our brains a moment to rest, we have room to start thinking about the future and creating plans to accomplish those dreams.
· Boredom can make us feel charitable. When we’re bored, our lives and activities can feel meaningless, which can trigger us to altruistic action.
· Boredom boosts productivity. Researchers have found that daydreaming at your desk may not be a waste of time. Instead, it can help you be more productive when working on task-oriented projects.
· Boredom might be the key to happiness. Without quiet moments of boredom, we miss out on internal reflection that can help us recognize unfulfilling or unsatisfactory things. Likewise, we can also miss out on things that are truly awesome, like a gorgeous sunset or a warm smile from a fellow passenger on the commuter train.
How to Boost Your Boredom Factor
Even though most of us have spent much of our lives running from boredom, it might behoove us to look for chances to be a little bored. Use these tips to get started.
Limit Social Media Time
We’ve all fallen down the Facebook or Instagram rabbit hole, where one simple check-in leads to lost hours wandering through cyberspace, admiring the pretty pictures of life presented by our myriad friends and acquaintances. It can also cause us to make unfair comparisons with others, adding to our self-consciousness and taking a toll on our mental health.
To make sure you don’t miss out on right now and your mental health doesn’t take a hit, set limits on social media interaction and only check in during designated times.
Use Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode
Most phones today have settings that stop the constant pinging of alerts. You may feel nervous or scared to stop the influx of notifications, but turning them off even for small amounts of time frees us to be fully present. Great times to try this out are at the dinner table, during a date, and any time you have the chance to look at something beautiful—be it a rainstorm or a painting.
The next time you’re on hold or in line, stop yourself from pulling out your phone or tablet. Instead, take the opportunity to sink into this bonus moment. Take a deep breath, look around, relax your shoulders, and simply be. You might be surprised by the rejuvenation and inspiration that can come from practicing mindfulness instead of playing Candy Crush.
Boredom—especially in the digital age—is something we should put back into our hectic lives. Rather than filling all our time with digital stimulation, let’s seek opportunities to press pause and invite boredom in to help us stay grounded in the real world around us.