Boredom is something we’ve likely all felt in the last year. With the restrictions on doing our usual engaging activities, we’ve fallen into an empty spot of twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the next Saturday night Zoom quiz. Boredom is inherently seen as a negative emotion and something that we find generally intolerable. With our usual busy and exciting lives, we are not familiar with boredom and we have our phones ready and waiting as soon as we are stuck in a moment without entertainment.
In 2014, a study was conducted where participants were left alone for 15 minutes in a room in which they could push a button to give themselves an electric shock. Despite the fact that all the participants previously tested the shock and stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked again, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than do nothing at all.
I am a person that always enjoys being busy and finds fulfilment in being productive. When lockdown hit, I struggled to adjust to a slower life and was desperate to get back to work when I took any time off. However, having now spent over a year in this position, I’ve realised that not only is rest valuable and productive for your mental health, but also that boredom isn’t always a bad thing.
Boredom can really drive inspiration and can be a vital component in a creative process. Without any distractions, boredom gives us the chance to daydream, space to think and the opportunity to come up with our most creative ideas. Many writers and artists have given credit to boredom for giving them the space and motivation to be creative. Author Neil Gaiman once said, “You have to let yourself get so bored that your mind has nothing better to do than tell itself a story”.
Walking, one of the only permissible activities in lockdown, is also cited by many as being important to their creative thinking. The filmmaker and artist Miranda July regularly goes out on walks because, “there are only so many good ideas you can have sitting in a chair”. I adopted a dog last year and so rain or shine, I’ve been out on a walk every day. This year I’ve been fortunate to have this excuse to get out of the house even for a short while. I’ve found that my morning walk is a chance for me to clear my mind of any stress and does wonders for my mental health by just breathing in some fresh air and getting some exercise.
So the next time you’re bored, instead of reaching for your phone or clicking “next episode”, try embracing your boredom, go for a walk and get creative!