Sunday, December 2, 2012

When was the last time you were bored?

When I was a child I frequently experienced periods of boredom. Travelling long distances to visit family was a very regular occurrence and there was little to do in the car but sit and contemplate the inner workings of my own mind. As a creative soul, I often found myself composing poetry in my head, making up songs, writing stories. The lack of outside stimulation was a positive, rather than negative experience.

We rely on constant external stimulus to keep us entertained
© olly -
I realise that I have allowed myself to fall victim to the almost obsessive modern need for unending external mental stimulation, as a passenger on a long journey now, by air, train or car, I will be found, almost without exception, engrossed in my iPad, iPhone or laptop...playing games, watching movies, reading books or just surfing social media sites. At night I seldom "disconnect" until I am literally falling asleep in front of my screen. It used to be that air travel was a chance to disconnect, but that luxury is fast disappearing as more as more airlines provide internet access in flight.

I fear I may be losing the ability to harness the power of my own imagination to fill the empty spaces during my day and I exclusively seek outside sources of entertainment to do this for me. Yesterday, while sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to finish some errands my iPhone went more Scramble with Friends, Facebook checking, Tweeting....I was lost, I felt isolated and bored. I realised then that this feeling of boredom was something I had not experienced for a very long time.

Why do we fear boredom? Solitary confinement, with a complete lack of mental stimulation, is considered one of the ultimate tortures, and do admit that the thought of that sends a shiver up my spine.

We need to start treating boredom as an opportunity, it is the gateway to creativity. When you are able to empty your mind of external distractions you can fill it with your own imagination...far more exciting and fascinating than any game, website or movie you could involve yourself with. In our world of distractions and "always on" connections, loneliness should be treated as a rare pleasure, something we have very little opportunity to experience.

Physically I am alone at the moment, but my twitter stream is on the right of my screen, my Facebook page to the left, so there is always someone "speaking" to me, always something external demanding my attention. Boredom gives us a chance to "reset" our brains, but we just don't let ourselves do this anymore. What is the first thing you do when you wake in the morning...for many of you I bet it is to grab your mobile phone, check twitter, Facebook and email. I remember a time when I would wake up and I would just lie there and think, imagine and travel somewhere else in my mind. I miss that!

Reset your imagination and see what grows
© Mopic -
Having written this, I went and did a bit of research and came up with this talk by Genevieve Bell and she actually says exactly what I am trying to, and probably far more eloquently. I would urge you to listen and do as she suggests and turn boredom back on again by disconnecting yourself, and more than once.
We are not born with this need for external stimulation...put a 3 year old in a room without TV, without any overt entertainment and they will make their own, a box, a blanket...anything, or even the lack of it, can spark their imagination. Put a 14 year old in the same room and they only thing they will think about it how they can get out and get back online.

I plan to take my own advice, I want to experience that feeling again and give my imagination a chance to explore and create. We need to be bored, we need to be alone, but many of us have forgotten how. Claim back boredom and loneliness - these are not negative states of mind, they are opportunities, welcome them and make the most of what they can offer.

I challenge you all to disconnect for an hour, each and every day, reset your imagination...who knows what gems you may come up with when you let yourself loose inside your own mind.

1 comment:

  1. Nice one Kirstie. I often miss the days from college summers when I felt like I could accomplish my best writing only because I had so much time on my hands with nothing to do but think.