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Embracing the Beauty of Boredom

Have you ever wondered how we as a society have become so dependant on mindless scrolling that we take our phones into the washroom with us?  I’m not talking about slipping your phone into your back pocket (in which case you’re definitely tempting fate with the high probability of your phone plunging to the depths of the toilet bowl!), rather, I’m recognizing the fact that probably most of us have succumbed to the ‘squat and scroll’.  Am I right?  Definitely some cringe-worthy guilt over here!  Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored or left with our own thoughts for a few moments that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??

I don’t know about you, but I’m on a mission to alter my scrolling habits. When left with a few moments of potential boredom, I want to seek opportunities that result in creative, imaginative thinking, problem-solving, and greater awareness—of my inner self, the world around me, and of God’s Spirit speaking to my soul.  Doesn’t this sound like something we could all be refreshed by and excited about?  What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?

“Have we really become so averse to the possibility of being bored…that we are habitually inclined to take our phones to the toilet??”

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.

If you long for a more creative outlook or are unsure of how to initiate more opportunities to integrate creativity into your daily routine, look no further than those moments of boredom that so easily beckon us to our phones for a small sliver of mindless scrolling.  Whether you’re just waking up, hanging out in a waiting room, or are waiting in the car, I’ve outlined 3 ways that you can utilize boredom as a catalyst for creativity.

1) Transition from scrolling to another activity.

First, we need to kick the habit of scrolling when we’ve got a few minutes to either wait or busy ourselves, and I think one of the best ways to transition from scrolling to intentional, imaginative thinking, is to read something tangible that does not require a screen, nor your thumb’s ‘scroll function’.  Author, podcast host, and speaker, Sarah Mackenzie (of the book The Read-Aloud Family and the podcast Read-Aloud Revival) suggests simply keeping a book with you.  Her straightforward suggestion has prompted me to keep a smallish piece of light reading material in my handbag at all times.  You’d be amazed at how much reading you can accomplish with just five minutes here, or ten minutes there.  Now I wouldn’t recommend Dostoevsky’s War and Peace, or anything else that’s a) cumbersome and b) needs some time to access with focus, but I would recommend anything from a self-help or business book to a children or youth novel that you could read either silently or aloud to your kids.  If this seems too daunting, keeping a couple of magazines in your car, or a crossword puzzle or sudoku book on hand might be a great alternative for you.  Start with what is most accessible and gets you in the habit of doing something other than turning to your phone for entertainment.  I’ve kept a crossword puzzle book in our master ensuite for years and it’s the one washroom I’m almost never tempted to take my phone into.  A devotional, magazine, or piece of light reading by my bed—something I’m eager to delve into that doesn’t take much brain power either first thing in the morning or later at night—will often persuade me to read tangible material rather than scroll through my phone.  This bedside habit has resulted in both better sleep at night and a more positive outlook first thing in the morning.  Win-win right?

2) Stir the creative juices with prompts.

If you want to take things to the next level and stir your creative juices up a bit, I’d recommend keeping a notepad or journal with you, along with a short list of prompts, perhaps penned at the back at the top of a few blank pages.  Here are a few prompts to get you going:

  • “If I could design my dream house, what would I include?”  Keep a running list of design and landscape elements that you come across that you’d want to integrate into your dream property.  Mine would definitely include complete privacy, acreage, lots of big windows with sunlight streaming in, rustic wooden beams, and pretty Mediterranean tilework. 
  • “If I could spend 10 days in one place anywhere in the world, what would that look like?”  Would you spend your time exploring a Caribbean island while staying in a jungle or beachside bungalow?  Driving the backroads of Tuscany and sipping wine in the local piazza every evening?  What would you pack for a trip to Thailand?  Would you find yourself walking the Cotswolds or the Scottish Highlands, or roaming the plains of the Serengeti?  Let your imagination wander and try to envision what you’d wear, how you’d travel to and from your destination, what the weather would be like, and who your travel partners would be.  You might find yourself staring off into the distance instead of writing…a fun and essential part of becoming lost in creative thought!
  • “If I could plan the ideal dinner party/Sunday brunch/high tea, who would I invite to join me?”  Let yourself think beyond the box of close friends or potential acquaintances.  Consider a mix of people from history, or an assortment of creative minds and talents, along with the meal’s setting and menu.  Every time I delve into this daydream, Queen Elizabeth is definitely at the table, but we’re at Balmoral in Scotland where she’s on holiday and more relaxed.  Then I fill in the gaps with an eclectic mix of friends, family, and famous figures from throughout history.  

3) Consider your surroundings and tap into a deeper awareness.

For an even more ‘advanced’ attempt at pushing the boundaries of boredom, even if just for a few brief moments, I like to consider my surroundings and tap into what my brain and body are experiencing.  This not only prompts me to reflect on my current needs and desires, but also on my preferences and opinions.  Taking a few deep breaths and noting how my body feels as I wake up, or how it settles into a chair, what the light around me is doing, or how other people are responding to our surroundings, helps me be more attuned not only to myself, but also to those around me.  This process enables me to be more open to hearing the Spirit of God speak into my life, often compelling me to meditate on Scripture or extend love, patience, or compassion to someone else, whether they are physically present or not.  I believe that intentionally seeking opportunities to be aware of one’s surroundings can have a beneficial effect on one’s mental and physical health, relationships, and spiritual growth.

The great thing about embracing the beauty of boredom is that it opens up opportunities for growth and enrichment, fulfillment and peace that trolling the internet never can.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t spend time online or use our phones for pleasure or purpose, but the more that we view boredom as having the potential to cultivate creativity, (and less as something to avoid) the more our scrolling habits will find an appropriate place in our lives—preferably not while in the loo!    

“What sort of ideas and possibilities might be sparked if we were using brief fragments of time to create rather than consume?”

If you are struggling to draw creative ideas from a wellspring that starts with scrolling, the results will be largely inauthentic and even less gratifying.  Visual inspiration is important, for sure, but I would argue that it’s vital to engage in observation that takes places offline if we want to produce results of the highest caliber.

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring creative looking to take your ideas to the next level and really grow as an artist, business person, or influencer?  Let’s set up a time to chat and discuss the possibilities for your future success.

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