This week's blog post is about boredom, and how it can actually be good for you. Strange, right? At least if you're bored by this blog, it's not such a bad thing!
I've been trying to change the way I do some things recently. I'm not a big one for resolutions (see here for more on that), but I do like the changing year as a time to re-commit to your values and wider goals, and one of mine is to use my phone less. I can find myself aimlessly scrolling Twitter or Reddit for hours, and it's not particularly healthy (and I think, for me, it makes me feel worse mentally). So, I've been consciously not using my phone as much. Understandably, at times I started to feel a little bit bored!
That's probably not surprising - my brain is used to the little hit of dopamine it gets when scrolling, and it's been difficult at times to work out what else I can do that gives me the same feeling. But maybe I don't need to feel stimulated all the time - maybe boredom is something that can work in my favour.
Humans have a complicated history with being bored. Some studies suggest that we'd rather subject ourself to painful things than sit with our thoughts, and that might be true if your internal world is difficult or distressing. But boredom is actually something that we should welcome at times, as it can be really helpful to us.
Because our minds don't often get to wander in this hectic age, we can struggle to disengage and disconnect. We can be full of thoughts about what we need to get done, and can sometimes lose the fun, creative side of things. Giving yourself time to feel a bit bored can stimulate creativity by giving your brain a chance to wander, daydream, and drift. You might find that this helps you to solve a problem you've been (over)thinking about, or approach something in a different way.
Being bored also allows your mind to rest a little bit. When we're super switched on it can be mentally taxing, and we don't often allow ourselves space to just think and reflect. Your mind is likely to be more tired than you think if it's constantly jumping from one thing to the next. Slowing down a bit can give your mind a well-deserved break.
How to be bored
Inspired by the above research, I'm doing a couple of things each day to be a bit bored and let my mind wander. I'm consciously using my phone less (and I've turned off the ding! noise when I get a text/notification) which has given me what feels like LOADS of free time after work! I'm using it to read sometimes, but more often than not I'm going for a walk. No destination, no fixed route, just wandering. I don't take my earbuds with me (although I do take my phone - it's dark and we still need to be safe), and just focus on me and my thoughts. It helps me wind down after work, and whilst the boredom was immediate at first ("why am I doing this?" "what's the point if I'm not being productive?") it's really helping me to check in with myself and make sure I'm using my time for me, rather than for social media.
If that sounds terrible to you, I'd recommend the book Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee, which really helps break down the ways in which we've sacrificed personal values for "productivity". It's a brilliant read. I'd also welcome your thoughts in the comments!
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects