Two weeks ago, we explored the incessant need we have to be stimulated, and how good it is for us at times to just be, or even allow boredom. To give ourselves space to be with ourselves and think. This has been quite challenging for me, but oh-so-healthy and helpful.
We have such a wrong picture of boredom…
Looking Under the Hood
When we choose to be constantly stimulated, we are not aware of all the thoughts going on in our brains. But just because we aren’t conscious of our thinking doesn’t mean that we don’t have any thought running around in our heads. They are just running in the background, that’s all. They are like the operating platform that makes our computer run–it’s there, whether we see it or not. It runs the show. And if we want to change it, we have to look at it.
It gets Uncomfortable
Looking under the hood makes us come face to face with what we have been avoiding by the constant sensory stimulation we are accustomed to. And for most of us, it comes down to the same kind of thoughts:
the negative thoughts that we have about ourselves and our life, our future and our past. This is most uncomfortable and makes us want to run back into the cave and resume the habit of over-stimulation.
I have done it. I am sure you have to.
Discomfort is the Path
We need to move towards discomfort. Discomfort is a given. We can either feel the discomfort of where we are right now, or we can feel the discomfort of growing and changing and evolving and creating.
The bottom line is this: “boredom,” or lack of stimulation really is the path to feeling better. Not only because it’s a window into our mind, but also because it is the path to creativity.
Path to Creativity
When we let our mind wander, when we daydream, when we just allow our brain to think, we come up with the insights and the ideas and the epiphanies.
How often do we hear, “I don’t know, it just came to me in the shower, or I was waiting in line or sitting at a stoplight or staring out the window, and that’s when I had an amazing idea.”
So many of us mistakenly believe that those moments are a waste of time. Those are actually moments when our brain has a chance to put the puzzle pieces together, to create the idea and the insight. If we always feed our brain novelty and entertainment, there isn’t any white space to put the puzzle pieces together.
It’s a Process
Basically, this is how it goes:
When our brain is always being kept busy, we don’t look under the hood. When we don’t look under the hood, we don’t consider our own thoughts about ourselves.
When we begin to look under the hood, we have to look at what is in our brain and sit with our own negative thoughts about ourselves. We then have the opportunity to start questioning, challenging and changing the thoughts that do not serve us and practice new ones.
It is uncomfortable. We have to wrestle with a lot of thinking we don’t want to. But then, something happens: we stop immediately going to the negative in the absence of stimulation.
This is where the magic is: in the absence of stimulation, we find space for discovery and insight, new ideas, problem-solving, creativity.
Quality of Thoughts
We can tell a lot about the quality of our thoughts just by asking ourselves, “Do I like to hang out with my brain? Do I like to be alone with just me and my mind? Me and my thoughts? Or am I always rushing to cover it up?”
We cannot change what we can’t see. As long as we refuse to look at our thoughts, refuse to take a look at our mind, we will never be able to change it.
If you have been spending years avoiding boredom, seeking out rewards, always wanting to be stimulated, always wanting to be entertained, always looking for that next little bit of dopamine, running from your thoughts, if you have been numbing yourself with alcohol or food or working or just constantly being
busy, never allowing yourself to sit still, it might be time to change.
And when you stop numbing yourself and tune into your brain, it’s going to feel a little worse at first because you’re going to come face to face with all the thoughts that you have been running from. But this is exactly how you start to feel better. Because whether you are conscious of it or not, your thoughts are always creating how you feel and then how you act.
Boredom is interesting. Boredom is the place where you can watch our mind at work. Boredom is something that you can be fascinated about and curious about. You don’t have to cure boredom. You can just allow it, and the more you allow it, the more tolerable it becomes. The more your brain learns that it doesn’t have to
always be stimulated, the more access you have to all of the good stuff, all of the creativity and the problem solving and insight and ideas.
Be willing to be Bored!
Are you willing to actually cultivate boredom? Put down your phone, stop the constant stimulation. Think about reframing boredom in your life. Do it, and let me know what you discover!