The Benefits of Boredom: How Zoning Out Helps You Zero In

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The Benefits of Boredom: How Zoning Out Helps You Zero In

Being bored is often associated with doing nothing or being completely unproductive. And while it might feel that way sometimes, boredom's reputation isn't entirely warranted. Surprisingly, there are several helpful benefits of boredom, and zoning out can actually help you become your most productive self.

It might sound counterintuitive. After all, how can feeling disinterested or doing nothing actually accomplish something? To find out, learn more about why you actually should be bored from time to time and what to do to make the most out of your boredom. It may seem silly, but trust us; there’s actual science behind these claims. Boredom is an art — when you do it the right way.

5 Types of Boredom

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Yes, you read that right. Boredom has different types that have been identified using a model created by Dr. Thomas Goetz and Anne Frenzel. This model is supported by scientific research and looks at levels of arousal — not sexual, but in relation to how calm or anxious a person is feeling — in comparison to the experience of positive or negative boredom. Here’s a quick lowdown, starting with the most neutral boredom and ending with what people may often see as the most negative type of boredom:

  • Indifferent boredom: A person with indifferent boredom will experience calmness while withdrawing from the world. It’s the most positive way to enjoy being bored.
  • Calibrating boredom: If you don’t know what to do and your thoughts are all over the place, you’re experiencing calibrating boredom. This often occurs when we’re sick and tired of a routine but aren’t determined yet to make a change.
  • Searching boredom: This type of boredom isn’t as beneficial as the two above. In fact, it can feel quite restless as you try to find ways to keep yourself busy. However, long-term searching boredom can result in finding new hobbies and interests you enjoy.  
  • Reactant boredom: If you tend to leave a boring situation behind and finally move on to a new one after thinking about it for a while, you fall into the reactant boredom category. People experiencing reactant boredom tend to also avoid the people or situations that they perceive are responsible for putting them in that boring situation.
  • Apathetic boredom: This is the most "negative" — or what can be the most difficult to process — type out of the five. If you’re experiencing apathetic boredom, you may feel helplessness over your situation to the point of having depression or engaging in self-harming behaviors.

What Are the Benefits of Boredom?

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So, how can you use these types of boredom to your advantage? There's somewhat of a correct way to utilize them. And when done right, boredom can be a fantastic thing for your overall wellbeing. Here's how:

  • It can improve your mental health. We’re constantly fed information, and tuning out is becoming harder and harder. Sometimes, what might seem like being bored is actually us taking a break and letting our minds get a moment to rest, away from the overwhelming information dump. Of course, this doesn’t make boredom a form of true self-care, but it’s always good to let your mind disconnect for a while.
  • It increases your creativity and the search for novelty. As you daydream and allow your mind to wander, you’re unknowingly allowing it to think outside the box. A study by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman focused on giving people two activities: first a mundane one and then a creative one. The results showed that, by doing the mundane task first, people were able to generate more innovative ideas during the creative task.
  • It makes you self-reflect and find new goals. This one may require you to have some self-awareness and cultivate your ability to identify boredom initially. But if you’re able to see that a certain situation isn’t challenging and doesn’t engage your mind, it could motivate you to pursue brand new goals, hobbies and interests.
  • It makes you goal-oriented. If you’re daydreaming when you’re bored, you're focusing on the future. You can easily use those daydreams to your advantage. Setting realistic expectations during your daydream can actually help you manifest those dreams and turn them into realities by setting achievable goals.
  • It can help you develop excellent self-control skills. This requires quite a bit of practice. But if you’re able to acknowledge your boredom, you can take the next steps to redirect it into something you feel is more productive.

Here’s How to Use Boredom to Your Advantage

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By knowing the type of boredom you’re experiencing, you can use it to your advantage and transform it into something more productive. For example, if you notice your boredom is indifferent or calibrating, you can simply disconnect and let your mind rest. If you’re experiencing apathetic boredom, this may be a sign that your mind is too overwhelmed to function and requires therapeutic help from a counselor. You can also use these ideas to become friends with your boredom:

  • Try doing tasks that don’t require much focus. By engaging in a slightly mundane activity — think something like washing the dishes — every single day for a certain period of time, you’re allowing your mind to wander as it doesn’t need to pay much attention to what’s going on. Use these tasks as a form of meditation and let your mind disconnect from anything and everything. It’s important to note that yoga and meditation don’t fall into this category, as they're more about having an empty mind rather than letting it wander.
  • Unplug for a while. We live in a digital world, and it can feel like we receive a constant barrage of information from our devices, whether that's in the form of text messages or news alerts. And, let’s be honest; you’re never fully bored when you browse TikTok or argue with people on Twitter. While these activities can feel pretty mindless, engaging in them also prevents you from benefiting from complete boredom. Unplugging allows you to tap into true boredom and let your mind wander while taking a much-needed rest. Luckily, there are plenty of apps that will limit your social media usage. Practice putting down your phone, too.
  • Take time for yourself, otherwise known as "me time." Many people love to keep busy and don’t allow themselves to spend a moment without doing something. If you’re one of them, it may be useful to try to schedule some "boredom time" when your day isn’t packed, such as during the morning or in the evening.

The true key to making boredom helpful is to find a mundane task that makes you bored. Jot down a few of these and see how you can use them to your benefit — while giving yourself and your mind much-needed time off. You may be surprised to see just how beneficial those boring activities are.

Resource Links:

https://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/springer+select?SGWID=0-11001-6-1445444-0 

https://www.livescience.com/41725-new-boredom-discovered.html

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2014.901073#preview

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