Benefits of Boredom

A fascinating take on the benefits of boredom and daydreams.  This is oddly comforting.  I love the idea of not having to rush to fill time and space…

While there’s some tantalizing evidence linking daydreaming, the default network and creativity, I think the most tangible benefit of boredom is probably social. Mostly, what we daydream about is each other, as the mind retrieves memories, contemplates “what if” scenarios, and thinks about how it should behave in the future. In this sense, the content of daydreams often resembles a soap opera, with people reflecting on social interactions both real and make-believe. We can leave behind the world as it is and start imagining the world as it might be, if only we hadn’t lost our temper, or had superpowers, or had used a different pick-up line. It is this ability to tune out the present moment and contemplate the make-believe that separates the human mind from every other.

So Brodsky was right: boredom can have important benefits. We should learn to savor the slowness of time: all those long nights and tedious drives are a great chance to slip into our “default” mode of thought. We banish boredom at our own peril. 

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4 comments

  1. Sometimes when I daydream I imagine friends or family giving me advice on some part of my life or other. I usually end up thinking, “Wow, yeah, I should do that.” So here’s the question: did the advice come from the other people (through my experiences with them) or through me, subconsciously?
    (Yes, it’s probably both, but where’s the fun in that?) 🙂

  2. Ha. Hmm. Good thought.

    I suppose, obviously, that it must be a combo of both. If they didn’t actually say it, than it is your own thought. However, the cumulation of all of that person’s prior actions created some ‘persona’ that generated some expected piece of advice in your head.

    In the end, if you had a knife to me and demanded a choice of one over the other, I’d say that it was you who advised yourself.

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