Brain benefits of boredrom - it's all good.
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Bored and Brilliant
Are you bored the moment your parents tell you to put your phone away or turn off your computer? Do you hate being bored? Does it feel like you are wasting your time when you are not ‘doing something’? Well, I’m here to tell you that boredom leads to being brilliant.
Your teenage brain is glorious - if you didn’t know that already. Neuroscience has shown that the brain goes through critical periods of growth and development - while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years; right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years that is truly unique.
Boredom is an umbrella term, in other words – there are several times of boredom. No, not ‘really bored’ and ‘really, really, really bored’! You may be experiencing ‘Searching Boredom’ where you are restless and trying to find something to do. Very similar to ‘Reactant Boredom’ where you are bored and motivated to find another situation (e.g. listening to someone very boring talking!). The other type is ‘Indifferent Boredom’ when you are relaxed and withdrawn – like laying on the beach. In ‘Calibrating Boredom’ you are easily distracted by another person or activity. The final type is ‘Apathetic Boredom’ where you feel down and helpless – you are not interested in doing anything.
When your brain is bored the ‘default mode’ network kicks in. You connect previously unconnected thoughts and ideas – making you devise creative solutions, that you’d previously not considered. Boredom causes you brain to review your life, known as ‘autobiographical planning’ and encourages to set goals, and devise steps to reach them. Studies have shown that teenagers that are seldom bored and significantly less creative that teenagers that allow themselves to be bored.
The brain's 'default mode' network is involved in a multitude of complex tasks - merging and consolidating memories, daydreaming, creative a theme or narrative of your life. Time spent in this brain mode - enables you thread together the multitude of experiences that you've had in your life.
When the brain is in its' resting-state, not busy processing information, it activates connections between in left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and the brain's entire network. What the lateral IFG is connect to the bilateral inferior parietal cortex (BIPC) and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). What this means, is that they are typically associated with divergent or different ways of thinking becomes activated when the whole brain is not processing any information. To put it simply, when you are bored, the brain activates the creative part of your brain 'for something to do'!
When your brain has the opportunity to ‘wander’ and not be driven by a particular brain pathway to find a solution to problem or to respond to a stimulus, you give your brain the chance to ‘explore’ a different brain pathway – as a result you may discover or learn something about yourself or the world you had previously not considered. Boredom will encourage you to try to activities you have not tried before, as the brain encourages you to find 'relief' from your state of boredom. Boredom may well lead you to learn a new skill. Boredom is a way to encourage self-motivation - the brain will push you to 'do something' as it does not like being inactive.
Down time or boredom – is wonderful for the brain, it allows it to process information, reinforce learning and consolidate information. Next time you have an assignment to do, and you aren’t sure how to get started – read the guide from the teacher and then go sit outside quietly for 5 minutes and just look at the trees. It will give your brain a chance to help you ‘create’ a plan to tackle the assignment. Remember, that Newton was allegedly sitting under a tree when an apple fell on this and he ‘discovered' gravity.
So, next time you are feeling bored, enjoy it! Your brain will thank you for it, you’ll feel better, become smarter and more creative.
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