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What Boredom Does to You - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus

Daydreaming And Socialization

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.

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What Boredom Does to You - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus

What Boredom Does to You - Issue 53: Monsters - Nautilus

http://nautil.us/issue/53/monsters/what-boredom-does-to-you

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Key Ideas

The Importance Of Boredom

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. 

Focus And The Brain

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. 

Types Of Daydreaming

  • Poor attention control: when people with poor attention control drift into daydreaming. These people are anxious, easily distracted, and have difficulty concentrating, even on their daydreams.
  • Guilty-dysphoric: when our thoughts drift to unproductive and negative places. We berate ourselves for perceived mistakes or flaws and feel emotions like guilt, anxiety, and anger.
  • Positive-constructive: when our thoughts veer toward the imaginative; it reflects our drive to explore ideas and feelings, plan, and problem-solve. 

Daydreaming And Socialization

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.

The Importance Of Mind-Wandering

When we lose focus on the outside world and drift inward, the brain is putting ideas and events into perspective

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. 

Embracing Boredom

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.

The Dark Side Of Mind Wondering

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. 

Positively Using Mind-Wandering And Boredom

  • Instead of dwelling on negative events and thoughts and imagining how things could be different, use positive-constructive mind-wandering, to come up with a way of fixing issues or preventing them from happening again. What you daydream about is also a tool for self-diagnosis, as it tells you about where your life is and how you feel about it.
  • Boredom can be used to motivate us the pursuit of a new goal when the current goal ceases to be satisfactory. It acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.

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Boredom and modern society

Boredom is sometimes described as the plague of modern society.

  • Back in 2016, a French worker sued his former employer for "bore-out." He won.
  • Many people, especially those born between mid -1990s and late 2010s, scrolls aimlessly through apps and find nothing of interest.
  • People are even diagnosing their pets with boredom.
The struggle to define boredom

Psychologists differ in their definition of boredom.

  • In the 1960s and 1970s, boredom was defined as the feeling generated by a repetitive task. Researchers found that boredom increased alertness to the things happening around you (distractions).
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Boredom And Daydreaming

Where boredom is passive, daydreaming can be an active experience. Allowing ourselves to notice, and to be open to our surroundings, is a way of awakening our curiosity for the world outside ourselves. 

Also, boredom is an aversive emotion linked to disgust, whereas lots of people like to daydream.

Daydreaming And Creativity

We should give ourselves the space to daydream. After all, insight comes unannounced and such small epiphanies can constitute clues to our particular predisposition and personalities.

There are strong links between daydreaming and problem-solving and creativity. Neuroscientists have found that during periods of idle daydreaming or sleep, the brain goes into problem-solving mode. 

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Boredom Is Good

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. 

How To Be Bored The Right Way

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.