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Creative Boredom

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My sister and I have independently developed the exact same morning ritual. We get up early, brew ourselves a cup of something (coffee for her; tea for me) and take it outside – rain or shine. This allows us a moment to simply be with our thoughts.

The omnipresence of digital technologies seems to have drastically reduced the opportunities for our children to find such moments of simply being. From the time the sun rises to the time it sets, some device is always within reach to externally stimulate us. That is a real shame as a healthy dose of boredom can boost internal stimulus. When our mind is allowed a break it gets a chance to reset. And what device does not function better after a reset?

Most parents I know are aware that constant mindless technological stimulation has been linked to anxiety, depression and poor academic performance; to name but a few. Unfortunately the time gained from switching off the screen, is often filled with ballet classes, music groups, tutoring sessions and any extracurricular activity imaginable. But if we pack our kids’ schedules like a tin of sardines, there might not be enough space left for them to do nothing. In fact, there might not be enough time left to discover what truly interests them.

Neuroscience research has found that being bored and daydreaming involves the same processes that govern imagination and creativity. I can confirm that our daughter and son’s art work, the games they play together, and the constructions they build are much more creative when they have had plenty of time to simply be. This doesn’t mean that I am forcing our kids to spend an hour every day meditating in a lotus pose (although I wouldn’t stop them if they did!). What I am talking about is moments that can occur at any time throughout the day. While on the underground watching London’s gloriously eclectic population. While seeing the world go by from a car window. While listening to music. While walking through nature. While standing in a queue.

And when during such ‘boring’ activities, our kids do complain (and I can assure you that ours definitely do), we try to acknowledge their boredom but not always suggest a solution. If only we, as parents, all had the courage and a thick enough skin to empower our children to self-resolve their experience of boredom while in a public place. I am convinced that this would end up having a positive impact on our kids’ behaviour and learning. In fact, we adults would also benefit from a little more switching off, shutting down and letting our minds wander…

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