In an essay in the New York Times Book Review, Jennifer Schuessler argues that boredom is an “important source of creativity, well-being and our very sense of self.”
She points to research indicating that when we’re stuck in a boring situation, like lying in an M.R.I machine, certain areas of our brains register greater activity than when we’re engaged in basic tasks. Which areas? The ones responsible for “autobiographical memory, imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and conjuring hypothetical events” – the same parts you’d use to read or write a story.
These days most of us seem to want to avoid boredom at all costs. We carry around an arsenal of hand-held gadgets to distract ourselves. Our cellular phones alone have cameras, music players, hundreds of “apps”, and constant Internet access. Our culture tends to celebrate busy-ness and minimize the importance of vacations. And many of us fill the leisure time we have with television. In 2008, the average American watched over five hours a day.
But in our quest to eradicate boredom from our lives, could we be throwing away other things too, like our ability to imagine and be creative?
What do you think? Is boredom good for us?