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6 scientific benefits of being bored

As adults, we've got so much going on in our lives that boredom just doesn't seem like an option anymore

Rachel Gillett
Thursday 28 January 2016 16:53 GMT
Research suggests that we could be missing out on a lot by not being bored
Research suggests that we could be missing out on a lot by not being bored

"I'm bored!"

Never will you hear more exasperation in a child's voice than when they utter these words.

When we were kids, the very thought of being bored seemed insufferable.

But now, as adults, we've got so much going on in our lives — so many distractions, responsibilities, and technology at our fingertips to amuse ourselves with — that boredom just doesn't seem like an option anymore.

Unfortunately for us grownups, research suggests that we could be missing out on a lot by not being bored.

Here's why it's a good idea to unplug and get back to boredom for a while:

It can make you more creative.

Researchers believe that being bored can lead to some of our most original thoughts.

During a study by UK psychologist Sandi Mann, researchers gave subjects various boring tasks to complete and then asked them to use their creative thinking. The subjects who had the most boring task — reading the phone book — came up with the most interesting uses for plastic cups, which is a standard test of divergent thinking.

Mann says that boredom encourages people's minds to wander, leading them to more associative and creative ways of thinking.

It lets you know when something is amiss.

As researcher and philosophy professor Andreas Elpidorou explains in a psychology journal article that cites numerous studies, boredom "acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one's projects.

"In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations, and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively, and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a 'push' that motivates us to switch goals and projects," he writes.

It makes you more goal-oriented.

When people's minds wander and they're not thinking about what's going on around them, they're more likely to think about the future, European and American researchers found.

In a process known as "autobiographical planning," people most frequently plan and anticipate their future goals while daydreaming.

It could help make you more productive.

Scientists at Bar-Ilan University recently discovered that daydreaming also has a positive effect on task performance.

By stimulating a region of the brain responsible for both "thought controlling" mechanisms and "thought freeing" activity — thereby increasing mind-wandering behavior — researchers found that daydreaming doesn't harm one's ability to succeed at an appointed task, but rather helps it.

It can make you a better person.

The most common good deeds include holding a door open and taking in a neighbour’s parcel, according to the survey

Researchers in Ireland believe that boredom can lead us to do altruistic things.

In their studies they found that when we're bored, we lack perceived meaning in our activities and circumstances. This, they say, triggers us to search elsewhere to re-establish our self-meaning.

The researchers found that boredom made people more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors like donating to charity and signing up for blood donations to help re-establish feelings of self-meaning.

It could be essential to our happiness.

Though esteemed philosopher Bertrand Russell mused on the makings of a happy life nearly 90 years ago, his observations about the essential quality of our capacity for boredom seems just as apt today as ever:

"A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.

"A person accustomed to too much excitement is like a person with a morbid craving for pepper, who comes last to be unable even to taste a quantity of pepper which would cause anyone else to choke. There is an element of boredom which is inseparable from the avoidance of too much excitement, and too much excitement not only undermines the health, but dulls the palate for every kind of pleasure, substituting titillations for profound organic satisfactions, cleverness for wisdom, and jagged surprises for beauty.

"I do not want to push to extremes the objection to excitement. A certain amount of it is wholesome, but, like almost everything else, the matter is quantitative. Too little may produce morbid cravings, too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young."

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Read the original article on Business Insider UK. © 2015. Follow Business Insider UK on Twitter.

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