Is Boredom the New Mindfulness?

boredomIt goes without saying that we are a phone-obsessed society. I am as guilty as the next person of the inability to detach from my device(s) for any meaningful length of time.

Smart phones have banished our ability to be bored. I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that checking my phone, scrolling through social media updates and even playing mindless games takes up far too many of my spare moments. But is there a consequence to this?

A growing body of research suggests that there is. Neuroscientists have seen fMRI evidence of organized, spontaneous thinking when the brain is supposedly idle. “When you’re given nothing to do, it certainly seems like your thoughts don’t stop,” says Jonny Smallwood, professor of neuroscience at the University of York. “[You] continue to generate thought even when there’s nothing for you to do with the thought.” While there’s no conclusive proof that phones are inhibiting our creativity, the WNYC podcast entitled New Tech City has an idea to explore this hypothesis: How about trying to use technology to bring back the quiet, reflective time our gadgets have disrupted? In a project called Bored and Brilliant, participants are invited to track how much time they spend on the phone. Then on February 2, they’ll launch a week of creative challenges aimed at regaining control of phone use and making time for constructive mind-wandering.

I’ve signed up for the challenge and downloaded the phone usage tracking app called ‘Moment’. According to the Moment app’s data, typical phone usage is 95 minutes a day and the average person checks their phone 40 to 50 times per day. Well, I’m above average on both counts and not in a good way. Since I’ve been tracking my phone usage I’ve tuned into my almost lab rat-like tendency to jump on my phone reflexively: in my car at school pick up, waiting for the pasta to boil, even stopped at a red light. Time to stop the madness!

Beginning next Monday, the Bored and Brilliant project promises to deliver a daily mini podcast to me that will include some sort of challenge, the goal of which will be to diminish screen time. I am so curious to see if curtailing my compulsive and unnecessary habit of constantly checking email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Scrabble and the weather will free up some space in my head for creative thinking and problem-solving. Who’s with me?


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Author: Jennifer Hamlet

Jennifer is the curator for Ridgewood and would love any feedback or suggestions you may have.


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