Living in an era of constant connection, we often feel like we always need to be doing something. Be honest: How many times a day do you find yourself scrolling through your social media feeds simply because you are bored? It might be time to change your attitude on boredom. Despite the fact that boredom might feel like an annoying feeling that you are always trying to avoid, science suggests that it might actually be good, and sneakily productive.
According to a study published in the British Psychological Society, boredom can actually lead to innovation. The research shows that how often we let our thoughts get away from us, we begin to day dream and make the most impactful connections. The study, which conducted by Dr. Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman from the University of Central Lancashire, observed two groups.
According to the release, one group of 40 participants were asked to carry out a boring task (copying numbers out of a telephone directory) for 15 minutes, and were then asked to complete another task (coming up with different uses for a pair of polystyrene cups) that gave them a chance to display their creativity.
The other group of 40 participants were asked to come up with different uses for the cups without doing the boring task first. The results revealed that the participants who did the boring task came up with more creative ideas. Showing that letting the mind wonder allowed them to day dream, and stimulated the creative process.
According to lead researcher Dr. Mann, embracing boredom, rather than trying to prevent it might be a better idea.
“Boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity. What we want to do next is to see what the practical implications of this finding are. Do people who are bored at work become more creative in other areas of their work – or do they go home and write novels?” Mann says in the release.
Another benefit of boredom was discovered through a study conducted by the University of Limerick in Ireland. The study found that subjects who were bored were more likely to engage in beneficial prosocial behaviors. Prosocial activities are different for everyone, for some, this includes volunteering for those less fortunate, for others this includes blogging or teaching children in an after-school program.
The thing that links all prosocial activities together is that they are tasks that are important to each individual and make them feel good about what they are doing. Based on this, they are activities that are much more beneficial than the normal boredom activity of scrolling through the internet on our phones.
The difference then, is less the amount of boredom that we face, and more the decisions we make when we are bored. While some embrace the boredom and use it to pick up extra activities, others get unruly and create trouble and distractions for themselves and others.