The scarcity of boredom

Do you remember the last time you were truly bored?

One of the consequences of living in a world of ubiquitous connectivity is the disappearance of boredom. Whether we are queuing at a supermarket checkout or waiting for our dental appointment, it takes about 5 seconds to dive into our pockets and dig out our smartphones.

Here’s an experiment – try closing your eyes for at least 120 seconds. Once you open your eyes, write down what you thought about.

Beneath the seemingly calm surface of our conscious mind, there is the ocean of our unconscious mind and its mysterious creatures. Before the era of constant stimulation, thoughts and ideas from our unconscious minds used moments of boredom to push through into our consciousness. Our unconscious minds can serve us well by alerting us of problems that we aren’t readily aware of, or by presenting us with ideas that have been brewing beneath the surface. But only if we let them.

Whenever we get bored, our mind enters what neuroscientists call the “default mode”. During this mode of operation, our mind explores disparate ideas and solves our pressing problems. It also indulges in “autobiographical planning” – where we look back at our lives, refine our personal narratives and identify a couple of our big next steps.

Our unconscious minds can be a powerful ally if we listen to them, or a deadly threat if we ignore them for too long. People who embrace boredom through meditation or by merely ensuring device-free time every day, are at an advantage in the oceans of noise that surround us.

There could be a lot more to folding our clothes or doing the dishes in silence, than we ever imagined.

Inspiration: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas – TED talk

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