These days everyone is talking about the distractibility of our minds due to the many forms of technology and social media exposure. Neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists urge us to be cognizant of the time we spend doing whatever it is you do on your phone or computer. From checking on your Facebook friends, to playing a game on an app, to feeding on the ‘must know political news’, we can all admit that we waste enough minutes of the day on “unnecessary-surfing’. The price we pay on the quality of our lives from this constant distractibility can be looked at from two angles.
Keeping our mind busy with “information” however trivial or important it might be, keeps our mind ‘busy’ and robs us of the necessary dose of boredom that our brains need. It turns out that we need to unplug from this persistent tech stimulation so that our mind can wander and settle into a ‘wandering mode’. This state of mind-wandering–also referred to as the ‘default mode’–aids in the activation of the mental place where we solve problems and generate new ideas. This is the same mode that allows us to figure out our future goals and make moral judgments, as we make sense of our lives. Think about the times you are on vacation, or taking a walk, and suddenly ‘new ideas’ might pop into your head! That is this creative space we are referring to here. The place where new connections are formed in our brain. As Dr. Smallwood, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of York states: “In a very deep way, there’s a close link between originality and creativity and the spontaneous thoughts we generate when our minds are idle. In other words, you have to let yourself be bored to be brilliant.”
The accumulative time wasted on digital usage can be spent on any activity which will be more valuable to your future goals. Think about it, what is your #1 time waster? Do the simple math. Let’s say, you spend 30 minutes a day checking and rechecking your phone, emails and messages. Can you add those minutes per week? Per month? Per year? How many months or even years of your life might you be wasting if you add all those minutes up?? Be honest, and check the real time wasted on watching aimless shows, gaming, or just checking on your social media connections. Now imagine spending all this time doing something ‘good’ something ‘real’, anything else (even “doing nothing” as established before) and how much further along you will be in optimizing your life.
To sum it all up, occasional boredom (conceptualized here as not being constantly tech absorbed) is a positive stimulus for staying creative and allowing our brains to be engaged in original thinking. If that same ‘constructive-boredom’ from our digital detachment allows us more ‘time’ to optimize our days, then I vote for daily ‘mind wandering’ breaks. Go ahead and try it today; ‘do nothing’ so you can ‘do better’.