Boredom Brilliance


“Mom, I’m bored…” that statement is like nails on a chalk board to me. Usually the complaint is announced by my 5 year old son when we are running errands or at one of his sister’s practices or shows. Guilty, I am, of handing him my phone or iPad but my tolerance for this wining is low. And I feel sorry for him, he’s bored.

I confess, in these times, I as well, am engaging in mindless surfing. And that is the question, do we need to be stimulating our brains with our devices constantly? Should we let ourselves get bored and space out?

The Boredom Question
Researchers are studying the cognitive effects of boredom and mind-wandering. What they found so far- Boredom Leads To More Creativity!

Constant stimulation does not allow for creative thought. Spacing-out (mind-wandering) or day dreaming gives the brain much needed downtime. A brain on idle allows conscious and subconscious thoughts to kick in. This leads to sprouting of original ideas which fuel the creative juices. Also people reported improvement in self-reflection and problem solving.

The More You Use It-You Lose It
The more a person spends time on their device, studies have shown the following:
-Less originality
-Less creative thoughts
-Decrease self-awareness/reflection
-More likely to be ‘stuck in a rut’

Extinction of Boredom
It is not uncommon to walk into a waiting room or restaurant seeing several people looking down at their phones checking Twitter and Facebook. I don’t blame them. I think people feel pressure to keep up with social media (or defending their Clash of Clans Base.)

I grew up in the pre-cell phone pre-internet era where ‘day dreaming’ or ‘spacing out’ was a daily occurrence. As an American, I also grew up with the idea that ‘day dreaming’ or ‘spacing out’ is an unproductive act. Time should be spent more wisely doing something. So when Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, now you have the world right in your pocket! It is not surprising that Americans hitched on so quickly.

Quick Stats
-58% of American adults have a smartphone
-Average American spends 2 hours and 48 mins a day on mobile devices. (Flurry study, 2014).
-Average mobile consumer checks their device 150 times a day
-44% sleep with their phone next to their beds.

Bored and Brilliant Project
Check out the informational web-site, ‘New Tech City’ Manoush Zomorodi, host of the WNYC podcast recently launched a project coined ‘Bored and Brilliant: The Art Of Spacing Out’. They asked participates to put down their phones and become bored once a day. Then a task was requested to create or do something, such as, construct your dream home out of stuff from your wallet.

What they found from 18,000 participates was stunning. The participants reactions:
-Felt more present in the moment
-Tried new activities
-Got new ideas. Had creative and brilliant moments.
-Notice problems and found solutions

Many were challenged with putting down their phone. It was very hard and some described having a “withdraw” effect. In the end, most felt more satisfied in their lives and will continue to limit their usage.

Connecting To Your Self
Remember: allow time to just THINK without being entertained by your device. This will help you connect- BACK TO YOURSELF.

Of course, there’s an app for that-called ‘Moment’ it will track how often you check your phone and usage time. It is suggested to limit your usage to 30-95 mins a day.

For technology use by kids, it is suggested by Dr. L. Rosen, a researcher psychologist, to use a 1:5 ratio. Every 1 minute of screen time should be equivalent to 5 mins of non-tech activities (ex: 30 mins of iPad: 150 minutes of other activities). In teens, technology becomes more important for school work and social life so the ratio flips to 5:1.

Now when I hear… Mom I’m bored, I respond THAT IS GREAT! now you have the opportunity to exercise creativity (O-TEC). “It’s O-TEC time”. This little acronym nugget came from my boredom. Brilliant huh?! Maybe I should stick to my phone.

About adwettrick

I am a Family Nurse Practitioner that works in an OB/GYN practice at Community Hospital North in Indianapolis. I graduated with my undergraduate and master's degree at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis in 2005. I am married to my best friend, Don Wettrick, whom is one of the inspirations in my life along with my three beautiful children and of course my faith in God. I enjoy educating my patients on preventative health and how to balance their busy life and being healthy. Mind, body, spirit are all connected and if one is in trouble the others tend to suffer as well.
This entry was posted in boredom, cognition, creative, Family and health, health care, Psycholog and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Boredom Brilliance

  1. Robert Voigt says:

    Refreshing point of view! I will use your piece with my middle schoolers to make the point about going “techless” for periods of time– how it can lead to many good things including creativity! (BTW, did you mead “tired” in line 45?)

    • adwettrick says:

      Thank you,after researching this topic I have been more conscious of screen time for myself and my kids.
      Thank you for catching the error, I meant “tried” not tired, I fixed it. I appreciate that.

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