5 Scientific Reasons Boredom Is Actually Good for You

Unplug, slow down, and embrace boredom



(Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash)

Nowadays, we have much more to keep us occupied than ever before. We can text, go on social media, or even stream movies as we commute to work. We spend our weekends with more and more entertainment choices. We are already over stimulated and still crave more stimulation. If we don't have it, we feel bored.

Just a few generations ago, the chores necessary for the everyday living left people with little to no downtime, so boredom was seldom experienced.

A recent study about boredom says that it is the least understood emotion. While it is easy to find examples of how boredom can engender negative states like depression and lead to negative outcomes, researchers wanted to find out if there were positive outcomes to being bored.

In the study, people were asked to do a boredom-inducing task like sorting a bowl of beans by color. The group that was bored later performed better on an idea-generating or creative task than the control group who had previously participated in an exciting craft activity. The bored group consistently outperformed the crafters in idea quantity and quality. The researchers concluded being bored can improve productivity and creativity.

Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good also researched whether there were positive outcomes from being bored.

Mann's book explores the causes and consequences of boredom in the fast-paced 21st century. In her book, Mann described how we act, react and cope when we are bored, and she encourages people to embrace boredom.

Unplugging is essential. “We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out, we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems,” Mann writes.

So, when you are waiting in line at the supermarket or on the bus, don't scroll your time away, allow yourself to be bored and reap the benefits.

1. Boredom Sparks Creativity

Research suggests that when we are bored and looking for stimulation if we can't find it, we make up our own. That's what daydreaming is. How many inventions were created by people who had the time to just imagine? So, turn off the phone and turn on your imagination.

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2. Boredom Allows You to Engage in Self-Reflection

People who are prone to boredom are more likely to engage in self-reflection. Being bored allows you time to sit and think about your current circumstances and self-reflection is often the spark for making real changes and improvements in your life.

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3. Your Mind Gets to Slow Down

Boredom on a long commute can be a great way to look at the scenery as the train speeds by. Looking at nature provides stimulation that you do have to focus on so your brain gets a rest. Being in nature is even better.

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4. Boredom Can Make You a Better Person

Research in Ireland showed that boredom can make you altruistic. That's because when we are bored, we lack perceived meaning, so we search elsewhere to reestablish the value of our life. This leads us to prosocial behaviors like donating blood or giving to charity.

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5. Boredom Is Good for Your Mental Health

In her book, Mann writes that daydreaming when you are bored provides an escape from day-to-day life and all its stressors. Stepping away from all the screens that are part of our work and daily life can give the mind a break and your mental health will be better for it.

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