Benefits of Boredom · ep. 41 · 10 for Teens + Tweens

Tween or teen girl wearing bracelets sits bored with her chin in her hand.

Felt bored recently? That’s ok, it happens, like during uneventful weekends, or on a break from school, or while traveling, and especially while waiting–in line or for an appointment or for a sibling to finish a lesson, etc. Boredom occurs when you’re not interested in what’s happening and your brain isn’t being stimulated.

And our go-to method to deal with that is through technology–an app, a show, a video game–where you can just sit and be stimulated without having to do a whole lot. I think it’s fair to say that you are the most stimulated generation of youth ever, with constant access to smartphones, online gaming, streaming services, smart home devices, digital classrooms, video chats, etc. We’re conditioned to living with all that stimuli, so when it’s not there, boredom hits.

My kids make sure I know they’re feeling it by announcing, “I’m BORRRED!” And when they say it like that, boredom sounds absolutely miserable.

But what if it’s not? What if being bored is actually a good thing? When you sense that you feel bored, you’re recognizing that your brain is craving activation; it wants to engage in something. And while turning to technology is an option, you’ve got tons of other alternatives that have far better benefits than a screen.

Spark your Curiosity

Being bored sparks curiosity. Have you ever noticed how, when you’re doing something that doesn’t require a lot of thought (like washing your hair or putting away laundry) sometimes you get a great idea or question. It’s because, in these mundane moments, your brain isn’t too busy so it has a prime opportunity to think. To wonder. To hypothesize. To explore. What do you want to know more about? What fascinates you? What puzzles you? Hold that thought and run with it. Follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead. How can you learn more about it? A person, a library book, a museum or organization. For example, My tween daughter cannot get enough about space, like planets and astronauts and constellations. She feeds this curiosity by checking out books, talking with her grandma who studied astronomy, and visiting exhibits. She got a telescope for Christmas and loves setting it up when there’s a full moon or the planets align. Instead of twiddling her thumbs while complaining about being bored, or automatically turning to a screen as the solution, she got curious and it led to a passion.

Enhance your Creativity

Curiosity can lead to creativity. If you don’t mind a plant-based analogy, I once heard someone say, “Boredom is like fertilizer for your brain,” meaning, it creates a metaphorical rich soil where creativity can grow. What do you want to create? Creativity can involve arts like drawing, painting, crafting, design, music, dance, speech, film, writing, etc. Creativity isn’t just a right brain thing, though, it is also used in technology, engineering, coding, robotics, and science. As humans we have an innate craving to create–it’s what led to inventions, discoveries, renaissances, machines, developments, advancements, etc. People acted on their curiosity to create some thing greater, helpful, meaningful, thought-provoking, and awe-inspiring. Everyone has creativity within themselves, they just need to take the opportunity to pursue it.

Boost your Mental Health

Boredom can lead to curiosity, which can lead to creativity, which can lead to better mental health. Doing things that you enjoy and are interested in will boost your mood. On top of that, you can also strengthen your brain by using mental and physical effort when trying something, practicing a growth mindset when you mess up or fail, motivating and encouraging yourself to keep at it since practice makes progress, problem-solving to see what can be improved or if a solution can be found another way, and exercising resilience as you continue to work at what you are doing. Who knew boredom could do that?

It takes time to learn something new, so make the most of your boredom and utilize your time wisely. You don’t have to give up screen time altogether, but you could spend some of that time doing research or finding a tutorial. Aaand also spend time off screens actually doing something with your hands, with your brain, with your abilities.

What can you do when you’re bored? Glad you asked.

go outside • draw • play a game • read a book • decorate cookies • learn a language • write in your journal • build something • try a new sport • find shapes in clouds • tie-dye • research a topic • create a birthday card • listen to nature • try a new recipe • coordinate fun outfits • put on a talent show • write a thank you note • paint rocks • brainstorm how to improve your community • film a music video • ride a bike • learn origami • create a dessert • help your neighbor • start a blog • make jewelry • go geocaching • grow a garden • choreograph a dance • record a podcast • learn how to budget • create a scavenger hunt • sew pajama pants • volunteer • take a hike • read a recommended book • interview a grandparent and record their history • create an obstacle course for your family • make popsicles • write a bucket list • learn a new instrument • code a game • watch a sunrise or sunset • sketch a self-portrait • read to kids • make a vision board • point out colors while on a walk • organize a service project • write to your government leaders • write a note in chalk outside a friend’s house • learn to knit • wash the car • put on a gameshow • take photos • make ice cream • tie a blanket to donate • make dinner yourself • watch a movie outdoors

Embrace your boredom and see what happens.

To help you remember all of this, I created a “I’m Bored Ideas” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.

If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to [email protected] .

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