In a society where productivity and busyness to the point of burnout is not only normal, but a sign of accomplishment, it’s no wonder we have a hard time just doing nothing. Do you feel guilty because your neighbor has 10 conference calls a day and has already started a strict at home exercise regimen? Should you be using this down time more wisely? The silver lining in this whole situation, is that if you aren’t coping with the quarantine by keeping extra busy, you may be doing your brain and body a favor.
Boredom is Healthy
In a recent study, people were asked to do a boring task such as sorting a bowl of beans by color. The group that was bored later performed better on an idea-generating or creative task than the control group who had previously participated in an exciting craft activity. The bored group consistently outperformed the crafters in idea quantity and quality. The researchers concluded being bored can improve productivity and creativity!
In addition to sparking creativity, boredom is also a great time for self reflection. Giving your brain the time it needs to sift through the thoughts and emotions of the last day or week is essential for self growth and de-stressing, and we very rarely take the time to do it.
Do Not Equate Boredom with Laziness
Being idle actually lets your brain go to work. Your brain needs boredom, in that sometimes it needs to be not directed at work or any other particular thing in order to grow. Human beings are not machines, we require downtime to recharge and our society has made that nearly impossible for a long time.
Just because you are not being 100% efficient during this quarantine does not mean you are being lazy. While laziness is often a symptom of lack of motivation, actual boredom can drive us to any activity that relieves the frustration of inactivity or monotony.
Take this Time to be Creative
If you’re feeling up for it, use this downtime as a creative outlet. Have you noticed you do some of your most creative work when you are less stressed and busy? That’s because at its core, boredom is a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied. If we can’t get that from work, socializing, or our smart phones, our mind will try to create it. As demonstrated by the new study and plenty others before it, boredom can enable creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander.
So use this time to let your brain rest. You might just find that you actually love to paint, or can finally find the inspiration to finish that book you wanted to read for work or take up meditation. Even if you don’t find yourself in a sudden creative mood, this is a great time to let go of the idea that you must be doing something productive 100% of the time…because that’s what leads to burnout!