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The upside to boredom

It's healthier than you think

Your mom was right. No one ever died from boredom. In fact, if you're a person who overschedules to avoid boredom, you might benefit from carving out some quiet time to let your mind wander.

What the science suggests

Recent studies link boredom to a host of benefits, including creativity, self-motivation and stronger problem solving skills. In one 2014 report, British researchers gathered two groups of people and asked members in one group to complete a boring task: Copying numbers from a phone book onto a piece of paper. Study leaders then asked all participants to list as many uses as possible for a pair of plastic cups. The phone book writers generated more ideas than individuals who didn’t start the process with a boring activity.

In a Pennsylvania State University study, researchers showed four groups of participants a different video. Each video was edited to inspire feelings of relaxation, joy, distress or boredom. Participants then took two creativity tests. Again, individuals in the “boredom” group produced more imaginative answers than the others.

Too much monotony creates negative outcomes ranging from stress to anger, to poor work performance. Some boredom, however, motivates you to daydream and look for fresh ways to address routine tasks. And, there are other upsides to down time. By taking a break and letting your mind wander, you give your brain time to recharge. Unplugging from technology, breathing deeply and embracing some quiet eases anxiety and promotes better sleep, as well.

Feeling too much boredom this winter? Check out this article on winter boredom busters.