BY: CAROLINE ROLF
At some point, we all get the feeling of boredom. Maybe it’s late Friday afternoon and you’re waiting for the workweek to finally end. Maybe it’s in the clinic waiting room or through the third hour of your history class. To fill these everyday occasions of boredom, we pick up our phones to fill the gaps. But all the swiping and constant entertainment that we have become used to, nearly dependent on in our culture, could be short-circuiting our creativity and insight.
Despite living in a time of unlimited access to entertainment, we remain bored. We have developed a tolerance to it and all the stimulation surrounding us, just as a drug user develops a tolerance and requires a larger dose to get the same effect. This was noted in a Reader’s Digest article titled “How to Cope with Boredom”:
“Despite its extraordinary variety of diversions and resources its
frenzy for spectacles and its feverish pursuit of entertainment,
America is bored. The abundant efforts made in the United States
to counter boredom have defeated themselves and boredom has
become the disease of our time.”
As we have come to rely on gadgets to kill time, how we live is subtly being reshaped. We might believe spending time on our phones can be a productive and inexpensive way to kill time. But it turns out that boredom has its benefits, and we’re not reaping the rewards by picking up our phones in any given situation.
Chronic boredom can be responsible for a number of negative consequences such as depression, drug use, risk taking, overeating, gambling, anxiety and more. While long periods of boredom can lead to negative behaviour, short stints of boredom can boost creativity. According to the British Psychological Society, we tend to experience a surge in creativity after doing a mindless task because “it gives us time to daydream.” This way, the brain is able to rest and replenish until the next idea takes hold.
The problem is that we rarely have a moment without stimulation in today’s society. Even without a smartphone, we are almost always within range of a television, display or music speaker. With our attention constantly being pulled at; we have to seek out a quiet space to pause and foster our creativity.
We are ultimately faces with a choice. We can choose to scroll through the web, binge watch television and keep swiping to relieve our boredom, or we can understand that our thirst is for something far greater. We can’t stop seeking stimulation, but when our brain begs to be challenged, we need to put ourselves in a position to make that happen. We need less, not more, novelty stimulation. It may seem paradoxical, but a short spell of boredom may make us far less bored in the long run.
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