Why boredom is good for you?
I am bored! Is an emotion which we often feel but is escaping boredom better than letting yourself be bored? Shubhangi Singh writes the below piece as a guest blog.
What actually happens to us when we are bored? Why is our first instinct to engage into something? What really pushes me to write this article – is what happens to us if we never get bored or if we got rid of this human emotion entirely?
In a study led by Timothy Wilson, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, a bunch of participants were put in a room for 6-15 minutes alone without anything to entertain them but their thoughts. They could choose to push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to and the results were shocking. 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict pain on themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think. They said they would rather pay money to avoid being shocked.
Over the past couple of weeks, how many times have you picked up your phone whenever you are bored? I know I have a lot of times than I can remember. 25% Indian consumers check their phones over 100 times a day and I wonder how many of us are from this percentage.
Before the lockdown, my routine was fixed and ongoing. I was able to space out myself from any task or technology until now. Suddenly I wondered about my screen time, why is there a major difference in it than before and then I started thinking which brought me to a point that maybe it is possible that it’s majorly related to my boredom.
In these unprecedented times, there are a lot of instances where we felt bored which made us uncomfortable in not having to do anything or feel meaningless in our actions. Whether it is being bored, or escaping thoughts, technology has been our solution and especially social media apps. Former Google Designer, Tristan Harris calls these apps as slot machines. Every time you check those apps, you’re playing the slot machine to know what am I going to get, scrolling down for them to make you addicted eventually.
The technology we have currently is an antidote to boredom which competes on attention of its users.
They want to make sure that you never get bored and the problem with never being bored is that you never get to think, that you have sold your ability to think.
Being bored is actually an escape from self-reflection where you do not want to be left alone with your thoughts. It creates a distraction from what has been bothering your mind. When you try to escape from boredom you are actually escaping your thoughts, anxiety and introspection. In some ways our dependence on our phones also makes us less independent. With even a little time having to spare, we take out our phones and scroll through social media posts wanting to distract our mind and engage it into something.
If you don't decide how you're going to use the technology, the platforms will decide for you; its as simple as that.
Although among many others, there is one way from which we try to escape our thoughts is by “sleeping on it” which seems practically sensible but what we don’t realise at that time is those very same thoughts may come back the next day. When you’ll wake up, chances are they’ll wake up too.
The biggest hindrance to creativity in the times of social media and smartphones which monitor each and every footprint of users over the internet – is not letting our mind wander, not letting ourselves feel bored. A boredom researcher Dr. 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. It's really awesome, actually.” It’s however important to not mistake it from overthinking which can further affect our ability to think in present.
Now the big question is how to be bored the right way?
To tap into boredom, pick an activity that requires little or no attention such as repetitive tasks or simply taking a walk in a familiar place which doesn’t require your mind to distract too much. We always tend to take our phones while we go for a walk which entirely defeats the purpose of taking a break and in this case letting our mind think freely. The best and raw creativity is often sparked when your mind wanders and dwells deeper into it. Perhaps, trying to do the most tedious tasks with no music or any other type of activity which engages your mind could also work.
We are so quick with all the information we intake that we don’t give our mind to process and think on it. With apps being designed in a way that it keeps us addicted to scroll down and consume content in such a short manner as 15 seconds to 1-minute video formats, it gets more difficult to process it. What’s wrong in consuming content after content without introspecting it is that your attention span decreases even more which shows its impact when you can’t focus on a single thing for longer period of times in any other activity. Your brain has tailored itself to get distracted quickly.
Every time you are feeling too much bored which is driving you to pick up your phone and watch something, think about what is the other side of this boredom. Sit and go through the space of not doing anything so that you find something in that silence – especially for people who are in creative fields where creativity cannot come if you don’t throw your mind into silence.
Another thing which is essential to remember is that there’s a difference between being alone with your thoughts and being lonely.
Often, being by yourself may actually clear up your thoughts in order to give perspective to things around you.
So, the next time you are bored, read this article and then maybe take a walk, but this time without your phone and any music around you. Be bored and space yourself from time to time.