The Value of Boredom

When the Activity Ends

School is out and the exhilaration of not having anything to do has already worn off.  How many children have complained, “I’m bored!” just days after summer break begins?

 

Pinterest is full of “boredom buster” ideas and tutorials.  Local libraries ramp up their offerings to accommodate the aimless and bored children.  Then there are camps for every interest and skill under the sun.  None of these are bad ideas, and each has value in its own right, however so does boredom.

Going, Going, Going

We live in a “let’s entertain me” culture.  The children of today are not only inundated with television in every public place, but have grown up in organized play for the most part.  While generations past ran outside to play with the neighborhood kids and didn’t return until dusk.  Today’s generation is most likely to only play at scheduled playdates or organized sports.

 

Boredom is the dreaded disease of down time.  It is something that needs to be cured, immediately and effectively.  Parents are often worn down trying to keep every moment interesting and engaging for their children.  Have you ever wondered what’s the worst that can come of boredom?

 

But What Will We DO?

True, idle hands are the devil’s playground, but idle minds are fertile ground waiting to bloom.  If there is no down time how will new ideas be explored, let alone formed?  Boredom may be uncomfortable at first, but it is a necessary distress.  Once the entertainment ends, we are left with ourselves.  It is just us and our mind.  What will we think?  What could we do?

 

Our pace of life is extremely busy.  We are on the go so much and hardly stop to smell the roses.  It is difficult even for adults to find themselves with nothing to do.  On the other side of uncomfortable, though, is innovation and creativity. We need to be bored sometimes.  According to Andreas Elpidorou of the University of Louisville,  “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.”

 

Sweet Summertime

 

Summer break is the perfect time to practice boredom and see where it leads.  In the absence of noise, distraction, and obligation the mind is allowed freedom to wander.  In the wandering, the brain relaxes and switches to creative problem solving mode.  New ideas take shape and the person finds something to do.  Not something he has to do, but something he wants to do.  Boredom allows you the freedom to discover your true passions and evaluate your likes and dislikes.

 

In fact, psychologists suggest that it is most beneficial for children to have a “boring” summer.  In the doldrums of inactivity, they are afforded the opportunity to self-motivate.  This motivation allows freedom to discover not only the world around them, but the one inside their own head.  If adults are always prescribing and directing what a child should do, how will she ever know what she wants to do?

 

Facing boredom head on and pushing through it, is “developmental achievement” for children.  Even the sulking at being bored has value.  The children are not wasting their time but taking their time.

 

In The Conquest of Happiness, Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”

 

So, the next time your child comes to you with the age old gripe, don’t rush in to save the day.  Instead, encourage him to sit a while and just relax, explore something new, or lie down on a blanket under the clouds and just daydream.  Resist the temptation to rush him on to something new.  Let the effects of boredom run their course. His mind and your summer will be better for it.

 

What have you discovered while being bored?

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