When was the last time you were bored? Not just sitting down to watch a re-run bored, but the type of bored where you have zero distractions. Can you even remember? What about the small children in your life - have you seen them bored without a tablet, a toy, or an adult-structured event? Believe it or not, being bored can be quite good for you. There are portions of our brains that are much more ancient in design than others. It's these portions that crave the simplicity of boredom and require a sort of bodily reboot every once in a while. However, it is important to note that experts categorize boredom into three separate types: mundane boredom (like waiting in a line), profound malaise (meaning a feeling of discontent with the general experience of life), and ineffable deficit (feeling like something is missing, usually something that is familiar to us). It's the first type, mundane boredom, that we're discussing today. The other two can be considered existential boredom and can often lead to mental health concerns.
Though it's not very fun to be bored, accepting momentary boredom and leaning into it can actually act as a catalyst for change in one's life as an opportunity for reflection (check out this Psychology Today article).
The Wonderful Health Benefits From Occasional Boredom:
Moments of reprieve from external stimulation can help you turn inward and get to know yourself a little better. We change so much and so often throughout our lives, and we sometimes forget to check in with ourselves and get to know our new current states. Boredom allows us the chance to re-get to know what we do and don't enjoy.
Creativity and imagination-stimulation
This one is especially important for younger children in order to encourage self-entertainment and self-reliance. However, it is still just as important for adults. When we experience mild boredom, our brains are allowed to wander freely and discover new interests and passions.
Boosts relationship skills - Boredom gives your brain the space it needs to revisit some past conversations and conflicts, and further build resolutions and foundations for better communication.
Rethink your priorities/meditate
As with boosting other relationship skills, boredom allows the space your brain needs to rethink (and possibly journal!) your priorities! Maybe a new job? A new hobby? A new health regimen?
Seeking out novel experiences - We all know that getting out of your comfort zone is so good for so many aspects of your life. Finding new ways to entertain yourself will help set the reset button.
What is the right kind of boredom?
Instead of using your free moments to scroll through the dark void of Facebook, use your spare time to unplug and focus on different means of self-care. This could be journaling, tidying, meditating, clearing out your pantry or your closet for donation items, volunteering your time to charity, etc. There are many studies that are proving that excess electronic use (such as scrolling during your lunch break or while watching TV) can increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression. Taking care of yourself by unplugging can leave you feeling calmer and more connected.
All this to say, there are pros and cons of boredom. Too much can cause anxiety, while too little can... also cause anxiety. It's about finding the balance and allowing ourselves to experience more while doing less. To quote Kim John Payne from his book Simplicity Parenting (which is a super fascinating book even if you don't have kids!):
"Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity. Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity. Each draws from and contributes to the other.”