How many times have you heard it or even worse, how many times have you heard it and done something about it?

What is the “it” I am talking about?

I’m bored.

When I was a child, if I said I was bored, I would be given something to do to stop me making trouble or told “you can’t be bored”. I’m sure many people had similar experiences. I also remember being told to stop daydreaming as if it was bad for me. There’s even a proverb about it. “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop”.

 But what if I were to turn these ideas on their head?

What if I told you that an idle or bored mind

is good for your creativity?

There have been a few studies in recent years that have studied the relationship between boredom and creativity. The results surprised me.

In a study at Pennsylvania State University, researcher Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood found that bored participants, outperformed relaxed participants in creative tasks and made more creative links between the questions asked and their answers.

A second study by Mann and Cadman confirm this and then discussed how boredom leads to daydreaming and then to creativity.

So enough of the research, how does this affect you?

Have you noticed you get good ideas when you are doing

mundane tasks or daydreaming?

I have.

 A lot of my ideas for lessons, courses and books come when I am walking my dogs. We walk along a country lane with no pavements (sidewalks) and on a bad day are passed by 2 cars. So apart from listening out for the cars and undoing the lead knitting – I have two dogs who constantly cross from one side of the road to the other and back again, my mind is free to wander, and it is then that I come up with my ideas. The hardest thing is to remember them, so I can try out the ideas when I get back!

So, my advice to you if you want to be creative is to stop trying to fill every minute of every day. Switch off your phone. Instead of filling your time with mindless rubbish (I am guilty of this) allow yourself time to just sit and be bored and let yourself daydream.

If you have kids, do the same with them and watch them imagine a play scenario; it could be killing dragons or on a desert island, or they may come up with a new game.  

So, what should you take from this?

Realize that boredom is a sign that your current situation is not fulfilling and lacking in some way. It pushes you to find something new. It encourages you to explore. It can make you more creative.

References

  • Approaching novel thoughts: Understanding why elation and boredom promote associative thought more than distress and relaxation. Karen Gasper and Brianna L. Middlewood.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Volume 52, May 2014, Pages 50-57
  • Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative? Sandi Mann & Rebekah Cadman Creativity Research Journal Volume 26, 2014 – Issue 2
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