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The Potential Benefits of Boredom

Thanks to the coronavirus, a lot of us are pretty bored right now.  Kids are bored because they can’t hang out with their friends or play sports, and grown-ups are bored because we’re all caught up on email for the first time in months and there’s only so much Netflix one can binge before you are craving a good old fashioned night out for dinner and a movie.  We say this with our tongue in our cheek, because we know there are many others who are not bored - our gratitude and respect to the health care workers, public safety teams and home-schooling parents out there - but right at this moment, many people in our community have a whole lot more time on their hands than usual.

And that may actually be a good thing.  Boredom, it seems, sparks creativity. In 2014, the Harvard Business Review published a story on the creative benefits of boredom that focused on research showing that individuals subjected to boring tasks actually performed better than control subjects on subsequent creative thinking tasks.  And, the more bored the subjects were, the more creative they became. When forced to exist without stimulation, researchers hypothesize, our idle minds begin to seek engagement.  They turn to imagination, daydreaming and original thought when faced with boring tasks.

In recent years, technology has all but eliminated this beneficial side-effect of boredom by allowing us to entertain our minds with individually-curated social media interactions, video games and streaming media. Prior to coronavirus, many of us reached for entertainment as an antidote for burnout, a chance to zone out and give our minds something to do that required minimal effort.  But the confinement required to combat the coronavirus, however, may actually push us to a very interesting place. As the pace of life slows we may find we need to unplug less.  Or, the power of entertainment may begin to show diminishing returns.  

It’s quite possible that the Covid-19 crisis is giving us an opportunity to be bored in that amazing way that prompts our mind to want to play like a puppy, chew on bones, hide slippers and play endless games of fetch.  And, in the midst of the change and uncertainty of these times, it seems that creative thinking is going to be of the utmost value.  

At Wello, we’re taking advantage of this opportunity to be bored for a while each day.  If you want to join us here’s a few tips on this forgotten art:  

  1. Carve out 15-30 minutes a day to do a menial task.  Yes, that’s it. Do something you find boring and see what happens an hour later.  If the research is right, you may find yourself coming up with creative ideas.  2
  2. If you’re working from home, commit to spending some of that time working without added stimulation.  Turn off the music, put the podcast on pause and set the snacks to the side.  
  3. Suspend judgement.  Most of us have an internal voice that gets critical when it perceives that we’re wasting time or being unproductive.  We’re not talking about going off the deep end, we’re talking about practicing a lost skill of allowing our minds to play.  

And boredom may also be beneficial for our well-being.  In many ways, well-being is about going back to basics: taking care of our physical and psychological health, enriching our social relationships and optimizing the spaces and places where we live to help our neighbors thrive.  In the face of the coronavirus crisis, these elements are going to be essential...and they’re going to require creative and innovative ideas.

So, let’s get a little bored together and see what happens! 

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