What Boredom Does to You - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus
When we’re consciously doing things we’re using the “executive attention network, ” the parts of the brain that control and inhibit our attention. The attention network makes it possible for us to relate directly to the world presently around us.
By contrast, when our minds wander, we activate the brain’s “default mode network, ” which is the brain “at rest”; not focused on an external, goal-oriented task. In this mode, we still tap about 95% of the energy we use when our brains are engaged in focused thinking.
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It drives us to engage in activities that we find more meaningful than those at hand. Without it, we’d be perpetually excited by everything.
Research shows that people who are bored think more creatively than those who aren’t.
Daydreaming creates a lot of activity in areas of the brain responsible for autobiographical memory, predicting others’ thoughts and feelings and crafting a coherent sense of self. It plays a key role in how we understand ourselves and each other.
When we mind-wander, rather than experiencing, organizing, and understanding things based on how they come to us from the outside world, we do it from within our own cognitive system. That allows for reflection and the ability for a greater understanding than we can achieve in the heat of the moment.
Boredom often leads to daydreaming, which is involved in skills like creativity and projecting into the future. But we tend to suppress it.
Letting one’s mind wander really is the key to creativity and productivity, so it’s destructive to fill all the cracks in our day with activity. Some boredom may be what you need to solve problems, gain perspective and better your life.
When dysphoric mind-wandering becomes chronic or we focus too much on unsolvable problems or past events, it can lead people into unhappiness or destructive and compulsive behaviors.
Also, mind-wandering in excess can be harmful to our psychological health and can get in the way of getting things done.
SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:
Boredom is a disconnection to everything we can offer the world and vice versa. It's not influenced by external simulation, it's actually an indicator of how you engage with the world.
Ages ago, when people were busy trying to survive, boredom wasn’t a choice. They spent all their time securing food or shelter.
We are now overstimulated — easy access to infinite entertainment options is feeding boredom rather than discouraging it.
People embrace busyness because they are having a hard time being alone and enjoying it.
Being busy is a tricky form of entertainment however — we don’t feel the boredom, but it isn’t fun either.
3 more ideas
Flow is the satisfying feeling of absorption we get when we’re wholly focused on an enjoyable, open-ended activity, of which we are in control but which stretches our abilities...
While boredom signifies a lack of stimulus, pauses in engagement can be of great value. Being able to appreciate this means you won’t get bored and will be able to find things of interest to think or find contentment in simply being.
Instead of trying to monetize or avoid idle time, use it to develop inner resources, such as curiosity, playfulness, imagination, perseverance and agency. From that all sorts of fulfilling activities can emerge.
Boredom is an unsatisfied search for neural stimulation. But, there is scientific evidence that boredom prompts the mind to entertain itself and can enable creativity and problem-solving ...
Daydreaming can be “quite a respite” and provide a brief escape from day-to-day life. But it’s also beneficial to simply step away from distractions, obligations, and stressors long enough to feel bored and let your mind recharge.
Don’t conflate boredom with relaxation. A purposefully tranquil activity, such as yoga or meditation, likely doesn’t meet the definition of trying and failing to find stimulation.
To tap into true boredom, unplug, pick an activity that requires little or no concentration and simply let your mind wander, without music or stimulation to guide it.