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Is Boredom the Curator of Creativity?

Woman laying on couch being bored while thinking creatively

Boredom. Who says ‘I’m bored’ anymore? Most adults don’t have enough time in a day to do all that they want or need to do. But, it did recently happen to me. Short-lived, but it happened. I said those two words, 'I'm bored.'

Keeping Creativity at Bay

There have been some recent articles written by doctors, psychologists, and business leaders on the subject of doing, well, nothing. We all spend our days waking up, checking our phones, working, kids, eating on the run, stress about the next day, go back to bed and repeat. Do our brains really rest at night or do they just catch their breath?

The recent theory surrounding the daily run around the anxiety pool is that we humans go and go and go. We juggle knives while doing math and try to thread a needle all at the same time. Sometimes being chased by a grizzly bear as well. Some of the biggest offenders say it isn’t so until you watch them in action. They do it, but it has become normal. They are calloused. But is that a good thing?

2020 - The Year Some Caught Their Breath

The year 2020 brought upon a change in the American psyche. People all of a sudden took a breath. For some, home became the office and the school. They found extra hours in their day and many took advantage of using this time to get back to what seemed lost. Family time, meaningless walks with their pup, neighborhood hang outs. It was a splash of cool water on an overheated society. We liked it. We got a glimpse of a better way. Is that such a bad thing?

What also surfaced was the thousand-year old practice of meditation and so-called nothingness. Turn the brain and the outside world off, just for a short time, and see what happens.

The theory behind meditation is simply allowing your brain to stop juggling knives, let it be, let it process. Many seemed to realize that powering down and forcing boredom allowed for creativity and thought. Nothingness became everything-ness.

Multi-Tasking Means Playing the Short Game

In 2017, Manoush Zomorodi, Author of 'Bored and Brilliant' hosted a Ted Talk discussing the topic of boredom and its benefits around creativity. She also dug into research showing what happens to our brains when we are bored and more importantly, what happens when we aren't.

When we are bored (or not processing a million things at a time) our brains reach default mode.This default mode is the time when your brain connects and processes in the sub-concious. She also reiterates that multi-tasking is a fallacy. The brain doesn't work that way. While we think we are multi-tasking, we are actually just depleting the brain's energy it needs to be creative. This energy is finite, thereby making our creativeness finite as well. In other words, multi-tasking, contrary to popular belief, is inefficient in the long run.

Same Chemistry, Different Environment

Our brains today aren’t any different from what they were hundreds of years ago. But we are working our systems harder, much harder. Some researchers will claim that the constant processing isn’t something we are well suited for. Our environment went zero to one hundred over the past 50 years. A big step given that we are the same biological creatures we have always been for the past 1,000 years or so. Also, this fire hydrant’s worth of information input and regurgitation is disallowing the capacity to actually ‘think.’ We are chewing but not swallowing. Like a bath tub filling with water, eventually it will overflow if you don’t let some water out.

For example, let's look at some of the winners of the History Channels popular show, 'Alone.' Contestants (all of whom have spent their lives training and educating themselves on survival skills) are dropped into the wilderness with a minimal amount of gear. They fight the elements, hunger, and loneliness. Last one standing wins a significant cash reward.

The series is eye opening at not only how hard it is to physically survive without modern amenities, but what being alone for weeks on end does to our brains and the human spirit. Many of the winners who spent 70+ days alone stated that the hardest part was returning to modern society. Television, blaring sounds and lights, constantly dodging people, cars, and obstacles. Season One winner, Alan Kay, discussed how time away changed his midset in how society works and how the world moves way too fast. We aren't meant to be isolated for long periods of time, but we aren't meant to be stimulated non stop either.

Although it sounds crazy, boredom allows us to actually think, to process. It allows us to dig deeper in thought, get creative, organize our thoughts and be more productive. Modern society and corporate America has built an environment full of distractions and keeping us chasing the elusive carrot. Maybe we should stop, think about how one actually gets the carrot, and possibly conclude that we don’t even want that specific carrot after all?

Air Travel. Creative Paradise?

Air travel can be the ultimate ‘busy bee’s getaway.’ You are locked in an aluminum tube, strapped into a small seat, loud white noise, and the only distractions are the ones of your choosing. Actually, I am in that aluminum tube as a write this. Not a distraction in sight.

Take the time. Take a walk. Pull some weeds. Watch some birds. Digest the day.

Remember, one who is everywhere is nowhere.


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