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Boredom and Creativity: Why Doing Less Can Unlock Your Mind's Greatest Potential

By Dennis Buckley

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Boredom. For some, it's the driving force that motivates them to keep a busy schedule and an equally busy mind. 

Others simply don’t get bored, and are highly content just watching the clouds or trying to find patterns in the floor. Some people despise boredom, but lack the energy to do anything about it.

And yet, others use boredom as a catalyst for creativity (whether they know it or not).

So how does one go about turning those moments of mind-numbing nothingness into creative energy?

In this article you'll learn why making time for deliberate boredom is a powerful strategy to unlock your creative potential.

Related content: 7 Ways To Keep Burnout Syndrome From Ruining Your Life

What Happens When We're Bored?

We tend to think of boredom as the exact opposite of productivity, but leading neuroscientists are starting to believe that boredom is the secret sauce that can 10x creative potential.

Your brain has a resting state which scientists are calling “default mode.

Default mode is like the screensaver on your computer that comes on to keep things moving when there’s not a whole lot going on. It is your brain on autopilot and it switches on when we’re doing menial activities like washing dishes or going through predictable, daily routines like driving to work or school.

Related Content: The Greatest Benefit of Walking Has Nothing To Do With Exercise

According to Dr. Sandi Mann, a Boredom Researcher (and holder of one hilarious job title), your brain can come closer to reaching its full potential when you let it wander during these boring tasks. 

Boredom and Creativity

Daydreaming allows the brain to break through the immediate, mundane routines and thought patterns of daily life.

By probing into our subconscious, our brain uses, develops, and strengthens abstract connections that we don’t rely on heavily during regular, logical thought processes. Using these neural connections improves the communication pathways between the different areas of our brain. 

More effective communication between brain cells means more cognitive abilities.

The fact that neural networks expand and diversify during bouts of boredom suggests that human beings are hardwired to create, design, imagine, invent, and develop new thoughts, ideas, stories, music, and arts.

How Boring is Boring Enough?

Tests have even been done to link boredom and creativity. One study published in the Harvard Business Review tasked people with doing something boring, like reading and copying numbers from a phone book. They would then have to do some sort of creative test. Subjects who were bored would come up with a wider range of creative ideas than the group that was entertained.

Another study tested subjects with an ‘associative thought’ word test. Subjects made to watch a dull screensaver prior to the test were able to associate a much wider range of words.

Boredom Can Lead To Your Most Brilliant Ideas

This is one of the most interesting scientific developments in recent years because it gives credence to the idea that humans are intended to create. Whatever force created the Universe has, in turn, given its creations the power to create, and it seems that during any moment our human experience isn’t a ‘full’ experience, our brain actually widens its network of communication

Related Content: 11 Proven Ways To Generate More Brain Cells, Improve Memory, and Boost Mood

To make the best of boredom and to fully enhance your cognitive abilities, embrace your boredom. At least, sometimes. Don’t mindlessly linger on social media while half-watching whatever happens to be on the television.

Instead, unplug and literally do nothing!

Let your brain wander and see what happens. Your brain naturally wants to experience life in the present moment with full awareness -- both in the world around you, and the inner workings of your mind.

 For even more on the link between boredom and creativity check out this recent TED Talk

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