It is rare that I find myself bored; perhaps it’s a function of my age, how I grew up or my natural curiosity. I’m always doing something and more often than not it’s usually devoid of technology. Technology and I have come to an understanding. I think. I get it, I use it, it doesn’t use me. I have a baseline that I continue to come back to and that comes from really knowing myself.
York University professor John Eastwood explains that boredom is just “wanting to, but being unable to engage in satisfying activity.” He goes on to distinguish boredom from apathy. “The [bored] person is not engaged but wants to be. With apathy, he said, there is no urge to do something.”
Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England who studied boredom, said it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.
I think it’s important to realize that boredom isn’t necessarily a negative thing states Richard Louv, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children & Nature Network, there’s a big difference between a negatively numbed brain and a constructively bored mind. Constructive boredom stimulates creativity. Constructively bored kids eventually turn to a book, or build a fort, or pull out the paints (or the computer art program) and create, or come home sweaty from a game of neighborhood basketball. I feel like I’m still there, still self-directed, and inventive as Louv calls it.
It’s not impossible to achieve even if you don’t feel you’ve ever been there. It doesn’t mean you’re boring if you’re bored, give it a twist and make it to your advantage.
If you find yourself in a meeting that just willll nottt endddd and you’re sure you will die of boredom, try doodling. “I can’t tell you how important it is to draw,” says Sunni Brown. “It gets the neurons to fire and expands the mind.” Just why and how this happens is the topic of Brown’s recent book, The Doodle Revolution.
Studies have shown that doodling can free up short- and long-term memory, improve content retention and increase attention span. It can also produce creative insight, because “when the mind starts to engage with visual language, you get neurological access that you don’t have when you’re in a linguistic mode,” says Brown. You could turn that meeting into a win for yourself. Just sayin.
Leave your phone behind for certain things. When I walk the dog each morning I don’t take my phone or any technology, I simply walk. I pay attention to where I’m going and what’s around me and I am engaged. Here’s what I would have missed just this morning if I was looking at my phone or had ear buds in:
A whistle from the Aunt M’s deck that led to an invitation to breakfast.
Toto face first in the snow, several times, on purpose and a huge belly laugh and sigh of relief that she was playing (after losing Lina).
Hearing the scraping of a shovel stop abruptly to look over and see a worker looking up to the sky. There were two Blue Jays in “dog fight” mode above us. To me that’s a sure sign of spring.
Boredom is a self-reflective emotion you can get lost in and use to your advantage. John Lennon understood it’s not just watching shadows on the wall you’re about to create. Boredom teaches the brain to create if given the chance.
“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.” ― Louis C.K.
Some of my most memorable legacy moments sprung from boredom, a ride with my father, a belly laugh with Cookie on a slow afternoon, new places to explore with camera in hand. Boredom is the equivalent of “if life gives you lemons…” Try making some creative lemonade.