Think about every opinion you’ve ever heard or read about meditation and mindfulness.
Invariably, somewhere along the way, you’ll find someone who declares these practices “boring”. For the unfamiliar, it’s understandable. Sitting and doing nothing? Paying attention to nothing, except our breathing? Sure, we get how some would think it’s all a real snooze.
However, some studies are adding even more credibility to those who say “boring” activities have optimized their lives.
Boredom: An Exciting Opportunity?
As a piece in tech publication Wired points out, society is increasingly quelling boredom with devices. When people are bored, they whip out their phones and begin scrolling. It’s an effective distraction and definitely helps pass time. But to date, we have found no benefits to dealing with boredom in this way.
In fact, scientists suggest that our digital habits help lock us into a cycle of stress, and more than that, dull our thinking. There is no evidence that all the data and info we consume from those Twitter feeds, Google search results, and Facebook posts have made us one iota smarter, more fulfilled, or even less bored.
In that Wired piece referenced a moment ago, the writer reminds us of what the philosopher Kierkegaard thought of boredom – that it’s the prequel to creation. Modern research tells us he’s probably right.
Boredom and Creativity
A study published in 2014 gave participants a “boring” task: copying down numbers from a phone book. Others didn’t even get to write numbers, they just read the number sequences over and over.
A lot of you probably recognize how such a task isn’t far off from a meditation session. Breathing, mantras, and even rubbing the rim of a singing bowl are done uniformly and repeatedly until it feels automatic, mechanical.
But what happens afterward? As it turns out, the more “boring” the task, the more creative you are when it’s over. In the case of this study, the most bored group (the readers) subsequently came up with more creative uses for a pair of disposable cups.
Similar studies have leveraged technology to prove boredom serves as excellent inspiration. Instead of scrolling on a phone, participants were ordered to stare at a screen saver for a period of time. Afterward, they did much better on a word test than the control group.
Why is this? A bored mind is a searching mind. It’s ready to receive answers. It’s not asking to be distracted by photos of a stranger’s vacation, or someone’s opinion on a TV show.
A bored mind is prepared to go inward, and emerge refreshed, centered, and better than ever. And that’s precisely why we proudly admit that yes, meditation and mindfulness can be incredibly boring.
The most tedious parts of our day are the secret ingredient to relaxation, creativity, and genuine productivity – the likes of which no social media app can provide.
What do you think of this research? When are you most bored, and what do you do to deal with it? Leave a comment below and let us know if boredom has enhanced your life, too.