People don’t like being without distraction—especially these days, where most of us carry a tiny computer with us everywhere. Some people even hate being alone with their thoughts so much that they’d rather be in pain than left in a room to think for 15 minutes. That’s according to a 2014 study published in Science, that found that many participants “preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.” The authors observed that “most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.”
But being bored, no matter how unstimulating it sounds, isn’t going to kill you. On the contrary there are actually health benefits. Boredom can be a powerful thing. It can:
Basically, because your brain finds boredom to be irritating, it kickstarts creativity to look for a way out of that state. That’s why shower thoughts, those seeming strokes of genius that come to you while your mind wanders in the shower, are a thing.
Unfortunately, the trend these days is to do more and more while bathing. People are playing on their phones and tablets, drinking wine, and maybe even eating full salads in the bath. What’s supposed to be the ultimate foray into me-time becomes just another distraction.
Other studies (lighter than the electric shock experiment) have found that when people do boring tasks they then tackle a creative challenge with more gusto. Something special happens to your brain when you’re bored. Take almost any child and put them in a yard without any toys and their imagination will create an entire world (or more) to interact with.
That’s because when you’re bored your mind starts to crave stimulation. That child entertaining themselves in the yard? Their brain is learning to carve a path out of the boredom, something that Harvard Medicine says some children may not learn if they have an overstimulated childhood—where every moment of a kid’s life is occupied with no room for down time.
By now we all know that cellphones are addictive. We never get to be bored anymore, whether on the bus, in line at the grocery store, or just walking down the street. A professor from the University of Chicago Booth, compares the ability to constantly entertain yourself with digital media is like being able to constantly feed your brain junk food—and if you eat enough junk, it’s bound to clog your arteries.
Not all boredom is created equal. Researchers from Germany put boredom into 5 different types:
It sounds easy enough, but these days it takes a little effort to be bored. Here are some tips to let your creative juices flow:
Now go have the most boring bath ever!
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