Go on, Get Bored
“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something” said Pooh to Christopher Robin. Whether or not you’re a Winnie the Pooh fan, his words spoke to an idea that I’ve been coming across a lot lately: that being bored, doing nothing, leads to creative breakthroughs.
Do you remember the last time you were bored, where you truly had nothing to do? I can admit, it’s been a while for me. If I’m ever in danger of being bored, I pull out a book, or if that’s not handy, I always have my phone on me. There is evidence that long term boredom can be problematic, and can lead to frustration, paranoia and despondency. It can be dangerous to our mental health to be bored all the time.
However, being bored periodically, has incredible benefits to boosting our creative juices. When we’re bored, our mind wanders and plays; it’s during times of boredom that we daydream, that we invent and create, because our creative processes are given the freedom to do so. All the thoughts in our head get a chance to associate with one another, pair up in unlikely ways. Boredom is a kind of work out for our brains; they don’t like being bored, so they fight it by thinking, creating and problem solving.
These moments of boredom don’t have to be long and painful to be beneficial; do you know how many works of art came to life in the shower, while the musician, artist, writer was washing one’s hair? Hair washing and showering is boring, and is the perfect place for the mind to be creative.
Don’t believe me? Harvard Business Review does an excellent job describing two studies that looked at the creative potential of boredom. One tested to see how participants who were given a boring task did on creating new ideas (divergent thinking). They proved that those who were bored before being asked to do something creative came up with more ideas than those who weren’t bored. The second test looked at how participants who were bored solved problems (convergent thinking), and also found that those who were bored were able to problem solve more effectively.
Many acting teachers preach the necessity of relaxation. It is easier for actors to be available and present if they’re relaxed. Relaxing is, in a way, allowing ourselves to be bored. Just make sure you don’t focus too hard while relaxing. Focusing as a way to find presence, as some types of meditation and relaxation techniques do, is beneficial, but not if you’re trying to be creative. Too much focus doesn’t allow our minds to wander, which is what inspires creativity. So relax, be bored, and see what comes happens. It just may be the best kind of something.