School holidays are almost here and I can already hear the cries of thousands of children as they have nothing to do for two whole weeks – “I’m Bored”!
In the past, when I’ve heard those dreaded words, I’ve become annoyed, muttered something about ‘oh, wouldn’t it be nice to be bored rather than cooking and cleaning and running around after you kids’ and promptly told them to go outside and stop complaining.
But, I’ve had an epiphany! I have come up with the perfect ‘come back’ line!
I’m going to say:
“That is fantastic news! That means that you are going have time to day dream and wonder and create! Who knows what magical worlds you’re going to discover and ground breaking new ideas you’re going to have! How exciting!”
I can’t wait to try it out!
In my blog Creativity, Boredom and the Great Unknown, I talked about how important it is for our children to have experiences where they can explore away from distractions, organised activities and screens, and how this helps their well-being and creativity. I also talked about how important it was for me to find time to just “be”, where I can give time and space to my own creativity.
And this week, it has struck me again – this notion of boredom and it’s key role in creativity.
In a world where we are constantly “connected” and addicted to the ping of our device or the like of our post, we are seeing a huge rise in mindfulness programs, meditation apps, yoga centers, well-being magazines, places and services to help us “disconnect” and recharge. We read articles about how to mindfully stack the dishwasher and listen to podcasts that challenge us to stop and take one deep breath every day for 60 days to focus and calm us.
In Issue 2 of “Breathe” magazine, they even have an article with instructions on “How to be Bored”.
Step one stated:
“Ease yourself in gently (boredom cold turkey might be a shock to your over stimulated system) by trying it for short periods of time first. If it would be reassuring to know there’s a definite end point to your idle time set an alarm, starting perhaps with a 15 minute period.”
And once you’ve mastered it,
“For maximum boredom, and to allow daydreaming, simply stare into space and stop making any effort.”
What has the world come to when we need to have articles and step-by-step instructions on how to be bored?
I even found a YouTube clip that provides teens with ‘handy hints’ on things to do at home when they’re bored! (What to Do When You’re Bored At Home – I’m only putting the link here to prove this terrible clip exists! Or in case you have someone at home who needs to watch it.)
But people are crying out for it. It has become necessary to retrain us adults and teach our young people how to find time to just “be”. In schools, we are having to explicitly teach students how to be mindful and “disconnect”.
In their book, “Wired to Create”, Kaufman and Gregoire talk about the effects of “having our attention pulled away from the task at hand by notifications, alerts, calls, texts, emails, and other digital stimulation”.
Today, Americans spend an average of eleven hours each day interacting with digital devices, and the average smartphone user checks his or her device every six and a half minutes (that’s 150 times a day)…
…MRI studies have shown similar brain changes in compulsive Internet users and drug addicts, and a 2011 study showed similar withdrawal effects among students who could not use technology for twenty-four hours and smokers and drug addicts quitting cold turkey. Research conducted at Harvard has found that disclosing information about ourselves on Facebook activates major reward circuits in the brain, which are also activated when cocaine or other drugs are ingested.
Wired to Create by Kaufman and Gregoire (p 109-110)
When you read information like this, it is no wonder that we need so many services to help us cope with disconnecting.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Through education and an awareness of what is happening, we are able to support ourselves and our young people. Technology is amazing and there are so many benefits to its use. And being conscious of it’s pitfalls, and talking with young people about them, can help us all strike a balance.
It’s like “sometimes” food. It’s OK to have chocolate, a piece of cake, or a Happy Meal, but we need to be clear and open with kids and explain that they are nice as a treat, but you can’t have them all the time because it isn’t good for you and doesn’t help you and your brain grow.
Sometimes it is good to be entertained NON-STOP, but it is a treat. You can’t live in that state all the time because it doesn’t help you or your brain to grow.
We need calm. We need quiet. We need time to recharge.
For creativity sake, we need to have time to daydream and allow our mind to wander.
Edward De Bono says that as a society, we need to stop thinking only about “What IS” and start thinking about “What CAN BE”.
Having time to be bored allows us to have time to wonder and dream of what can be. And it is in these thoughts and ideas that creativity can lead to innovation, and we can change the world.
And with this potential, why wouldn’t you want to be bored?
PS. And for some light entertainment, a funny but also poignant clip about Boredom.
PPS. But if you really want to be bored, and have some time to yourself to think and dream, log off and go for a walk. x
(Photo credits: Boy in Leaves, Boy in Cart, Girl Wondering – Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash, Girl on Phone – Photo by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash, Ballerina against wall – Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash)