Life can be boring sometimes. Actually, a lot of times. Boredom felt like I was slowly wasting my life; an agonizing burn that quickly made me feel restless. This torture took many forms:
- WAITING: In line, for a flight, or for a friend to arrive.
- WALKING: To work, home, or to meet a friend.
- TRAPPED: On the bus, in an elevator, or at a birthday party.
However, I had solutions to avoid boredom:
- Social media
I didn't know it back then, but these so-called "solutions" were addictive forms of instant gratification and escapism. Addictions that were slowly destroying my brain.
Avoiding boredom was making me miserable
SOCIAL MEDIA: Studies show that social media leads to depression. I've experienced this to a slight degree. Reason enough for me not to use it daily.
PROCRASTINATION: Instant gratification ruined my ability to focus on cognitive demanding tasks like film editing. Productivity goes down the drain as fast as stress skyrockets from not getting my shit done. Procrastinating defined me as a failure.
RELATIONSHIPS: The more I was on my phone the more I was distancing myself from the people I care about. My actions were telling people that I'd rather be on my phone than spend time with them. Pretty fucking rude, if you ask me.
Finding any way to escape boredom meant I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts. This made sense since my life back then wasn’t that great. I had problems, which led to lots of negative thoughts running wild in my head. I knew I was scared to confront my problems, so I took the coward's way out by distracting myself.
Things are different now. I've fixed my root problems and no longer fear being alone with my thoughts. Now when I'm bored, I don't impulsively grab my phone. I just let my mind wander, creating a strangely peaceful state. I've been doing this for months now and an interesting thing has started to happen: instead of negative thoughts running wild, ideas have started popping into my head.
Researchers Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane say idea breakthroughs are random by nature. You can't create them on demand but there are conditions you can create to help induce breakthroughs; exercises to get your brain in shape.
One exercise is to do a task that is “light” enough to distract the executive part of the brain (the decision maker) so that you can direct as much power to your creative part of the brain, or what Judah and Olivia refer to as the genius lounge.
Some light tasks that work for me:
- Folding laundry
- Washing dishes
Judah Pollack & Olivia Fox Cabane call these tasks “doorways” to the genius lounge. My go-to breakthrough-inducing task is walking.
People that used walking as a doorway into their genius lounge:
- ALBERT EINSTEIN
- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
- CHARLES DARWIN
- ERNEST HEMMINGWAY
- JOHN MUIR
- SIGMUND FREUD
- STEVE JOBS
- WOODY ALLEN
I’d estimate that 80% of my ideas are conceived in moments of boredom. Since January 11, 2017 I’ve gotten at least 108 ideas (those are just the ones I jot down). They aren’t all amazing ideas but that isn't the point. The more I get my brain in shape by removing instant gratification and letting my mind wander, the more I build new neural connections in my brain that lead to ideas.
Don't get me wrong, I know distractions can be beneficial in moderation. There are times where I'll put on a TV show or listen to music when I'm bored and don't want to think about anything. But that doesn't happen addictively anymore. I control when I distract myself. I have a healthy balance.
OPPORTUNITIES OF BOREDOM = OPPORTUNITIES FOR CREATIVITY
Boredom has proven to be a valuable source of productivity. Specifically with my new adventures in writing. I mean, how else do you think I got the idea for this post?