Remember how awe-some childhood was? How the simplest things could capture your attention, ignite your imagination, and fill you with a sense of awe and wonder? How you could entertain yourself for hours with nothing more than a couple props (usually crafted by your own hands) and your own creativity?

Something lost

We lose that sense of wonder somewhere along the way, but I think it’s definitely worth finding again.

Life can become so routine that we just wake up each day and go through the motions, nothing new or exciting or awe-inspiring ever happens.

Part of that is because we like it that way, and that’s not a bad thing. I love my routines. Routines are comfortable, they help us organize the world in a predictable fashion so that we can get things done when things need to get done. Even my dog, Buster, has routines.

Our routines tend to stem from our habits, which can be good or bad. Some habits, such as the consistent things we do to prepare for bed at night or going for a walk after dinner, stem from good habits that lead to good routines.

Other  habits, such as scrolling our smartphone whenever we have two seconds of downtime or turning on the tv as soon as we walk in the door, may not be so good, and may lead to some not so good routines. They can lead to ruts that we get stuck in: to unthinking-ness, to constant busy-ness (but not productivity), to doing just for the sake of doing without any real enjoyment or pleasure or advancement of ourselves.

Constant access, constant distraction, no time to be bored

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think part of this stems from our current reality of constant access to information, games, movies, social media, email, text messages  –  constant distractions – as near as our pocket, at all times, day or night.

With constant access to everything, we feel that we always need to be engaged in something, doing something, busy with something, at all times.

We need to fill any spare second of free time with a distraction of some sort (usually involving a screen!), rather than just sitting with our thoughts, looking about us at the world around us, or just being for a moment or two.

Not doing, just being.

This is evident in research that demonstrated how many people preferred being shocked (physically shocked, painfully shocked, not “shocked “ as in surprised and upset) to being bored.  I was shocked (in the surprised and upset sense of the word).

People preferred pain to a few minutes of boredom!

“Boredom is the fear of self.”  Marie Josephine de Suin

Bored? No wonder!

No wonder we’ve lost our sense of wonder, if we’re afraid to be bored for such a short period of time, afraid to let our minds wander, to use our imaginations, to just sit with our thoughts.

If we fill every moment with the mundane, the routine, the typical, there’s no time for wondering, for awe, for delight in the unexpected. No room for creativity, play, and imagination.

And now, even kids have this same sense of needing to fill every second with a screen and play on their parents’ phones, or their own phones, or their game consoles or tablets.

Now, I have no problems with these things in their own right – they’re valuable, we can learn a lot and gain a lot from playing games,  watching movies,  interacting with friends and family on social media, reading books or blogs or news feeds – but I think it needs to be balanced with some downtime, too. Some time free of distractions.

Do the unexpected

Veering away from routine and the things we always is a good thing, too. Doing the unexpected every now and then can be just what we need.

And today, the unexpected is sitting alone with our thoughts and our imaginations.  For crafting our own props and entertaining ourselves for hours with nothing more than our own creativity. For seeking out the wondrous in the everyday.

Today, the unexpected is allowing for boredom without distraction. And boredom has its benefits.

My call to action here is some unstructured play time for kids and adults alike. To sit and be bored for a minute and have to come up with something to do that doesn’t involve mindlessly viewing our screens.

Again, I appreciate my screens, especially my phone. I enjoy scrolling through Feedly and Flipboard, I love keeping up with my family and friends on Facebook, I’m particularly obsessed Instagram (I can’t seem to get the knack of tweeting, however).

Screens aren’t evil, they’re just not everything.

I also love and cherish my non-screen time. My time to just wander and wonder and explore. To just be and not do.

Something gained

Wondering is good for us. All of us, not just kids who learn about their world through wondering, asking questions, and exploring. There’s still much for us to learn about, much for us to ask questions about, much for us to explore.

  • Seeing something awe-inspiring can improve our mood and our outlook, even if it just means looking at breathtaking photos of nature or awe-inspiring feats of human (or animal) prowess. Right now you can go check out these awesome pics of our very own national parks or immerse yourself in the grandness of nature with these pics (see, I don’t think all things screens are bad!).
  • Try to regain that sense of childhood wonder by looking at everyday things a bit differently. Take a walk and seek out the weirdest, most incongruous thing you can find and make up a story about it. Or don’t seek out anything at all, just walk and let your mind wander and wonder.
  • Read a one of your favorite young adult or children’s books and try to recapture the awe and wonder of your youth. Or read an adult book and escape into the pages like you did when you were a kid, where the rest of the world falls away and you’re in the land of Oz (or wheresoever your book takes you). Grab a flashlight and get under the covers if you have to.
  • Lie on your back (or in the tub, if that pleases you) and look up at the clouds or the ceiling and just let your mind go wherever it takes you. If it takes you to to-do lists, wait it out! Or get up and write it down and lie back down and start over.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. Marcus Aurelius

The point is just to let yourself be bored for a bit. To not have to do something or busy your mind or hands with something.  To not have to be distracted by anything and everything.

Go ahead, embrace a bit of boredom

Next time boredom sets in, go outside and wander and wonderBy tapping into some boredom, and the creativity, imagination, wonder, and awe that may very well come with it, we can let all that information and entertainment and talk that we consume all day long have some space to knock around, intersect, and coalesce into some thoughts, insights, and considerations we may not have otherwise garnered.

Who knows what we’ll think of, what we’ll wonder, what will come of it all.

As always, thanks for reading my post! If you like what you read, please share with a friend. If you want more, sign up for the monthly newsletter – not only will you see the posts of the last month, you’ll get links to interesting news and inspiring stories, some recipes, some tips, some photos, and whatever else I fancy that month. 

 

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2 Responses to "Boredom and wonder, we could use more of both"

  1. excellent post Jo, i have fallen victim to quick entertainment, as have the boys. I find it is especially hard for kids these days. We do our best by allowing only electronics on the weekend, but then they want to overload! Balance is tough.

  2. Thank you, Kelly! And quick entertainment isn’t always bad, I think it’s only bad when that’s all there is. It’s ok for kids to be bored and not have every second of their day filled with something to do – sometimes they just have to figure it out! We did :) But truly, it’s that down time, that time when there are no distractions, that all that information and entertainment we take in during all the other moments of our day get to simmer and percolate in our minds – that’s when creativity is born.

    I like to do thought projects on occasion. Say I’m standing in line somewhere, rather than scroll through my phone I pick a topic and just think about it. It’s good for kids, too. Ask them to think about transportation, how they’d get from here to Florida without a car or plane – that sort of stuff. And the answers don’t have to be realistic, that’s what makes it fun. Or have them design their own video game or instrument or whatever it is that they’re interested in. Who knows what could come of it!

    But screens and electronics aren’t evil. They can boost creativity and learning and development, too. You’re kids are awesome. And balanced! You’re doing something right :)

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