“I’m bored,” is one of the most annoying phrases known to parents. Standard replies at our place are “Bored?! I’d love to be bored!” or “Only boring people get bored.” Seems the more kids have to do, the less they know what to do. As kids we’d disappear for hours sliding down hills, digging for treasure, hunting for skulls. (No, we weren’t pirates but grew up on a farm in the 1970s and 80s). Not a cotton ball in sight.
We’d bike 3kms to the local store. Then it closed so we’d bike 20km. Kbars long gone by the time we reached home. And our bikes didn’t have gears. “We get it, you didn’t have iPads,” they retort. Sigh.
As adults, life’s a constant rush and juggle balancing work deadlines, household chores and running around after aforementioned “bored” people. It’s not often we get a chance to get bored. And that’s a shame.
I’m really bad at being bored but I’m improving. Giving your brain a rest is actually beneficial for problem solving, well being and creativity. Daydreaming and letting your mind wander are more than just a mental switching off. Allowing yourself to be idle can improve productivity in the long run.
To be bored you have to stop making plans. Or at least factor in time to be bored! This is hard when our lives are ruled by family calendars and commitments. I’m not saying ditch the calendar but try to have at least have an afternoon during the weekend or a week night where there is nothing planned and leave it free.
If doing nothing freaks you out, just start with small bursts. Make sure all the external chatter is turned off, find a comfortable spot and sit. We’ve got great views from our upstairs lounge so have deliberately kept the room clutter free with calm colours. For me that space is almost a physical trigger to slowing down, pausing and being.
If that doesn’t appeal, do a really mundane task that you’ve been putting off (and alleviate working mother’s guilt at the same time – win:win). Sort the lego, the linen cupboard or wash the cutlery. Just focus on piles and colours – the small stuff – and leave your mind alone.
And it’s a good skill for children to learn too. Life doesn’t have to be about constant stimulation. Learning to have periods of inactivity is beneficial too – as is finding their own solutions to boredom!
So I might have to revise my previous theory that only boring people get bored.