Boredom is Good for you


Too many people are afraid of boredom and that needs to change. Boredom can actually be really good for you and helps you develop as a human being. Getting bored means that you’re familiar with what’s going on around you, resulting in your mind looking for stimulus within itself (and there’s a lot going on in there). This boredom allows you to ignore known stimulus and focus on what’s important in ways that can’t be predicted during moments of excitement.

Boredom is the gateway to mind-wandering, which helps our brains create those new connections that can solve anything from planning dinner to a breakthrough in combating global warming. Researchers have only recently begun to understand the phenomenon of mind-wandering, the activity our brains engage in when we’re doing something boring, or doing nothing at all. Most of the studies on the neuroscience of daydreaming have only been done within the past 10 years. With modern brain-imaging technology, discoveries are emerging every day about what our brains are doing not only when we are deeply engaged in an activity but also when we space out.

Andreas Elpidorou, a researcher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Louisville and self-described defender of boredom, explains, “Boredom motivates the pursuit of a new goal when the current goal ceases to be satisfactory, attractive, or meaningful [to you].” In his 2014 academic article “The Bright Side of Boredom,” Elpidorou argues that boredom “acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects. In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”

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Kids Should Have a Summer of Boredom

There’s pressure put on parents to ensure that their children are constantly entertained and never “suffer” from boredom. Don’t worry parents! There’s no need to constantly entertain your offspring.

Let them be bored!

Being bored as a kid helps build their resiliency and lets the kids find what interests them on their own. In essence being bored is good. Indeed, it’s so good that you should let your kids be bored and remind them that it’s their own fault their not having fun.

Fry suggests that at the the start of the summer, parents sit down with their kids—at least those above the age of four—and collectively write down a list of everything their children might enjoy doing during their break. These can be basic activities, such as playing cards, reading a book, or going for a bicycle ride. They could also be more elaborate ideas such as cooking a fancy dinner, putting on a play, or practicing photography.

Then, if your child comes to you throughout the summer complaining of boredom, tell them to go and look at the list.

“It puts the onus on them to say, ‘This is what I’d like to do,” says Fry.

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Make a Boring Thing Fun by Adding More Boredom

I use this technique quite a lot, but somebody else wrote about it in a way better than I could. If you can do two boring tasks at the same time you’ll have an enjoyable experience.

I’ve noticed several related things: 1. I could easily study flashcards while walking. This was less mysterious because I coded walking as pleasant. 2. I can’ t bear to watch TV sitting down. Walking on a treadmill makes it bearable. This didn’t puzzle me because I coded TV watching as pleasant and sitting as unpleasant (although I sit by choice while doing many other things). 3. I have Pimsler Chinese lessons (audio). I can painlessly listen to them while walking. While stationary (sitting or standing), it’s hard to listen to them. 4. When writing (during which I sit), it’s very effective to work for 40 minutes and then walk on my treadmill watching something enjoyable for 20 minutes. I can repeat that cycle many times. 5. Allen Neuringer found he was better at memorization while moving than while stationary. 6. There’s some sort of movement/thinking connection — we move our arms when we talk, we may like to walk while we talk, maybe walking makes it easier to think, and so on.

You could say that walking causes a “thirst” for learning or learning causes a “thirst” for walking. Except that the “thirst” is so hidden I discovered it only by accident. Whereas actual thirst is obvious. The usual idea is that what’s pleasant shows what’s good for us — e.g., water is pleasant when we are thirsty. Yet if walking is good for us — a common idea — why isn’t it pleasant all by itself? And if Anki is good for us, why isn’t it pleasant all by itself? The Anki/treadmill symmetry is odd because lots of people think we need exercise to be healthy but I’ve never heard someone say we need to study to be healthy.

Read more at Seth’s blog

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