The Necessity of Boredom

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by Danelle Spence

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04.03.2016

Teenage boy thinking and daydreaming while sitting at home

Whenever I talk to parents, teachers or students, I try to encourage the idea of ‘BOREDOM’. The first thing I hear is: “we don’t have time to be bored!!!”. Yes, I get it. We are a busy society. We are on-the-go from 7:00 am until 10 pm, maybe even longer, only to do it all over again the next day. We produce, we achieve, we excel, we get things done. BUT we also stress about things, feel overwhelmed, deprive ourselves of sleep, and ‘wig out’ on our bosses! Oh … and the anxiety … we are becoming an anxious, over-thinking, worrying society. Thankfully, there is a solution: Boredom.
Ok, not JUST boredom. But it does play a role.

My education and background has left me quite ‘obsessed’ (as the kids tell me) with the human brain and how it could, and should, optimally work. Boredom is a form of mindfulness, and its ‘staring-at-the-wall-un-productiveness’ has many neurological benefits! Here are just a few:

  • it helps consolidate our learning (the active working memory can move to short & long term memory systems)
  • it helps us access more of our right brain, the ‘self-soothing’ hemisphere which aids in calming our thoughts and feelings
  • it increases our creativity and artistry
  • it increases our potential to solve problems
  • it allows us to reflect on our days, to assess how we did, how we want to improve & what we are proud of
  • it provides us time to really attune to ourselves, so we can better attune to others
  • it helps calm and settles our nervous system, by accessing our higher brain (the prefrontal cortex) and moves us away from our lower ‘fight-or-flight’ brain
  • taking time to pause and reflect inward, helps decrease anxiety

Conclusion: Boredom is GOOD. Boredom is necessary.

BUT: boredom is NOT surfing the internet, texting, or making a to-do list!! (these stimulate the brain – which is the opposite of what we want!)

So if your teen is meandering in the kitchen, floating around the living room, seemingly wasting time, being unproductive and ineffective … once in a while … try to let them. (I also recognize there are also those that MEANDER too much…so obviously there does have to be a balance!).

It’s okay to not always DO and sometimes just BE.

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About the Author

Danelle Spence

Danelle Spence is a Registered Psychologist with a passion for helping teens effectively manage emotional distress and helping their parents’ understand the complex and developing teenage brain.

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