Let’s be honest: we’re living in chaotic and stressful times. And for many of us, this is the most “free” time we’ve EVER had. It can leave us feeling bored, unproductive and straight-up confused by how much time we’re spending scrolling through Instagram or watching Netflix. But what if I told you the same boredom that leaves us feeling drained can actually be the root of our next creative project?
Think about the last time you came up with a really interesting idea. Maybe you were on a walk, or you caught yourself staring out into space when you were on a work call (no judgement here). Likely, your creativity struck when your mind was wandering. If this resonates with you – you’re not alone. Research shows that some of our most creative inspiration happens when we allow our brain to rest and stop working so hard. According to an interesting study out of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, scientists found that boredom is considered a “seeking” state of mind, so we continuously find ways to activate our reward centers of the brain. Basically, in normal human terms, being bored is so not fun, we’ll do anything to find something more interesting to do.
It makes scientific sense that boredom and creativity are deeply linked, but how do we actually make the jump from staying bored to channeling it into new creative projects? Here are some important tips to keep in mind.
1. When your brain turns to boredom – lean into it.
Our typical reaction to boredom is to supplement with something that feels good immediately, like the dopamine hit we get from checking our Instagram feed – at Daydreamers, my company that’s shifting the way we spend our free time, we call this “low quality leisure.” But, experts say that in order to make the most of our boredom, we need to start embracing it.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to start becoming reflective as to why it’s happening. So, next time you feel yourself getting frustrated with your boredom – instead of going straight to a feel-good distraction – take a moment to rest a bit. During the space between feeling bored and taking an action, simply ask yourself how you’re feeling. Your answers might surprise you.
2. Become curious about your daydream.
It’s easy to see boredom as a frustrating experience that seemingly takes you further away from your goals. But, our attitude is the most important bridge to channel our wandering mind in to direct inspiration. So, during your reflection process – replace frustration with curiosity.
A favorite exercise of mine to help channel this curiosity is something that I call the “Early Morning Brain Dump” – though you can do it anytime. It’s inspired by The Artist’s Way, a decades-old creative bible by Julia Cameron. Essentially, spend ten minutes each day free writing, without judgement or even a purpose. This practice will give you clues as to where your creativity is hiding.
3. Use this as an opportunity to rewire your habits.
Ever wanted to get back into painting or sewing? Or maybe you love spending time in the kitchen, just for fun? According to the new science behind neuroplasticity, our minds build new, stronger pathways based on repeated actions. So, if your brain is used to grabbing your phone or checking your email the moment you feel a twinge of boredom, after some reflection, use that time to create new habits.
You can approach this proactively by coming up with your Joy List – the creative hobbies that you want to spend more time on. That way, the next time you’re feeling bored, you have an idea of where to start!
We know that habits take at least twenty-one days for them to take hold – but we don’t need to be perfect every single time. Though, we do have plenty of opportunities over the next few weeks to practice switching our mindset from boredom to creativity. And all it takes is a tiny perspective shift.
ABOUT KATINA MOUNTANOS
Katina Mountanos is the founder of On Adulting, a viral blog and community of over 23,000 millennials who are figuring out how to navigate adulthood in a conscious, happy way (@onadulting). She is an entrepreneur, writer, and mindset coach whose work has been featured on HuffPost, Fast Company, Teen Vogue, Elite Daily, Mindbodygreen, and others.
Katina started her career in data analytics at Goldman Sachs, and most recently co-founded a brand new startup called Daydreamers to help everyday adults access creativity more often. Her first book, On Adulting, will be hitting shelves in Fall 2020. Follow along at @onadulting or join the private OA Facebook Group, The Space.