After we’ve been through a period of intense busyness, it can be hard to slow down. The adrenaline coursing through us has become so normal it’s like it’s fueling us. Every time we get a free moment, our mind automatically goes into “what should I do now?” mode.
Sometimes it can start to feel boring when we begin to take things a little slower, even if it’s purposeful. If you’ve ever tried to sit with a cup of tea to contemplate your thoughts, then all of a sudden you’re thinking this is kind of boring, don’t worry, you are not alone. It’s not easy to slow down and do nothing. If some unexpected free time opens up, usually we feel compelled to do something.
Most of us have subconscious contingency plans for when we feel bored.
- You start cleaning your car’s console when you’re stuck in a traffic jam or in line at a drive-thru.
- You’ve always got a Netflix show at the ready for binge-watching
- You have a spare few minutes so you start a text conversation
- You find yourself enraptured by the latest celebrity gossip at the checkout
- You keep game apps on your phone for when you’re waiting in the car for your kids
In our fast-paced society—which seems to get faster by the minute—it can be a challenge to learn to do nothing.
Often what lies beneath the boredom can be fear. If we slow down and take a good look at our lives, what are we going to find? It could be all kinds of scary things like feelings that we don’t want to face, dreams or goals that we haven’t accomplished, or perhaps that ever-dreaded unknown.
But it’s important to realize there are benefits to boredom, which far outweigh the fears. Learning to sit with boredom can lead to a deeper reflection of your life, eventually encouraging a greater sense of calm and patience that can enhance your life in numerous ways – better health, more fulfilling relationships, and boosts to your creativity. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers found that creativity test participants who were bored outperformed those who were relaxed, elated, or distressed.
Why does boredom lead to greater creativity?
In his article, “The Bright Side of Boredom” in Frontiers in Psychology, Andreas Elpidorou suggests that “boredom helps to restore the perception that one’s activities are meaningful or significant.”
This sense of significance will almost certainly contribute in a positive way to our life satisfaction.
Believe it or not, it takes practice and diligence. We have to force ourselves to schedule “free” time. Give ourselves more time than we’re comfortable with to just do nothing. This means no cleaning, no TV or reading, no surfing the Internet, and no chatting with friends all night. Distractions, whether good or bad, need to be cut back.
It may sound counter-productive to your creativity, but that side project you’re excited about can wait, and that amazing idea that just popped into your head doesn’t need to be acted upon immediately. Instead, allowing time to settle down and really contemplate what’s important will be invaluable in the long run. You’ll gift yourself the time to discover what your true creative passions are instead of jumping on every opportunity that comes your way.
This won’t be easy at first. Plenty of thoughts will try to steer you away, trying to coax you into “doing” again. Beware of feelings such as:
- I’m behind, I need to be further ahead
- I’ll never succeed at this rate
- Everyone else is doing better
- This is irresponsible of me
The truth is that once you are able to calm these fears, you’re much more likely to experience the increased creative freedom that only daydreaming and contemplating can bring.
If you’re having a hard time getting started, for the next few days try to just be mindful of how you avoid boredom. What are you doing to fill up your mind instead of letting your thoughts flow? Challenge yourself to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that may come up instead of using your phone or some other distraction.
Once you get better at this you can begin to consciously schedule time in your day for contemplating.
Do you have any examples of how slowing down helped your creative process? We’d love to hear about them below.