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The Seed

I came across the idea in an article, or maybe a video, that boredom is good for the brain even if we try to avoid it as much as possible. I can’t remember exactly where I first came across this idea but in trying to find it for this post I did find other articles [1] [2] [3], and a Veritasium video on the subject.

To save you some reading/watching, the general idea is that being bored sometimes can help you:

  • Be more creative
  • Helps refresh your brain (similar to how sleep does)
  • Can help push us into trying new things

Being bored requires an activity where your mind is not engaged in the activity at all. Something like mowing the lawn, driving the same route home from work, walking the dog on the same street, or sitting in a room doing nothing. The key is that your mind isn’t engaged so your thoughts can wander.

This idea stuck in my head and planted a seed when I first heard it. I would think back on it here and there but never really did much with it (suspiciously it would normally happen when I was bored and had no way to use my phone/social media to change that).

In the past few weeks that seed has started to sprout.

Why the Seed Sprouted Now

The reason that this idea seed started to sprout recently was that I have been noticing more and more that I have been filling time with social media. Most notably Instagram reels, they were my Tik Tok (because I refuse to make an account).

Once I get started on reels I sometimes find it very difficult to actually stop. Part of my brain can be screaming “CLOSE THE F$%&#NG APP” and the part that controls my body will happily scroll away taking in the free content & dopamine.

The issue started to get worse for me when I noticed that I started filling time that wasn’t free but where I wasn’t directly doing something either. Hanging out with my wife, in a long work meeting, while playing with my son, waiting in lines to order or purchase something. Social media was starting to creep out of the free time crevice and take root in other areas of my life.

But social media isn’t the only thing helping this idea sprout.

The War on Silence

Something else I do that I’ve become more aware of recently is trying to fill every moment of silence with some sort of audio content. I don’t know when it started, or why, but the War on Silence is at it’s peak in my life right now.

If I’m working at the computer I’ll have some music, a podcast, or a video in the background. If I’m making food I’ll do the same. Walking the dog, podcasts or music. Driving somewhere, you guessed it. It’s so bad that if I’m at my computer with a video playing but want to go upstairs to get a drink I will pause my video, start a podcast or music on my phone, go get my drink, and then pause the audio on my phone when I’m back at my computer so I can unpause the video.

I’m listening to music as I write this (an instrumental because anything with words would make it hard for me to concentrate on writing).

The only times I don’t have something playing is when I’m going to sleep (I use to but I can’t subject my wife to Discovery channel conspiracy shows) or when I’m hanging out with my family sometimes (other times my son has something playing which covers the battle for me).

How I’ll Water My Boredom Bonsai

I’ve already started watering my boredom bonsai a bit and doing so has led me to the thoughts that spurred this post. I’m choosing to water it with a few ideas that sound simpler than they’ll be in practice:

  • End the War on Silence
  • Limit daily social media time
  • Be more intentional with my content consumption

Each of those sounds fancy and simple but I know they won’t be easy for me to just jump into.

End the War on Silence

I’ve already started winding things down here, a few of the steps I’ve taken have actually helped more than I initially thought they would. A couple of them are:

  • Walking my dog without listening to anything
  • Making meals without having a video playing
  • Doing chores around the house in silence

All of these things hae given me more time to let my thoughts just run. I don’t try to think about a specific topic and force my brain to be productive in the silence as that isn’t the point of boredom.

Sometimes as my brain runs it will get on a productive train of thought and I can come up with some good ideas, I just need to make sure I dictate them to my notes app before it’s gone and my brain is on to the next thought.

Limit daily social media time

I think this one will be hard for me as it seems to be a habit that I’ve had for years. If I have a free minute my hands will reflexively open an app. The app changes with the years but now it’s Instagram.

I think I’m going to try to start with not opening it at certain times rather than a straight up daily time limit and see how that goes. I know I should just put a daily time limit on it but I’m not gonna, don’t @ me.

Be more intentional with my content consumption

With this social media problem I have I’m spending too much time taking in content that is the potato chip of content. It tastes so good but has no nutritional value whatsoever.

I want to be more intentional with the content I consume. I have a few books that I’ve started but haven’t finished. Same with educational courses, started but not finished and even some not even started yet. I’m spending countless hours on this short-form content that feels great to watch in the moment but doesn’t leave me with any lasting value.

I might start by scheduling time in my week that will be set aside for education consumption. Or maybe limit my social media consumption to specific times of the day/evening.

As you can tell I’m still mulling over potential ideas to get started here.

Prune Social Media, Replace With Nothing

I’m essentially going to be pruning the unhealthy social media leaves from my life (at least some of the leaves) and choosing to replace them with nothing. This will give me more moments to just exist which will give my thoughts extra air to breathe and grow.

Grow Your Boredom Bonsai

What am I going to do with all those moments I’ll get back from limiting my social media and embracing silence ? I’m going to nurture my boredom bonsai of course !

I’m going to allow my mind to wander in the moments between events.

I’m going to embrace the silence more, allow my thoughts room to move around in my head.

In conclusion, I’m going to embrace being bored and I hope you do too.