You’re standing in line at the store, waiting your turn. You feel a slight tick. Your hand reaches in your pocket for your phone, and you turn it on. You scroll through, do your rounds… email, social media, etc. Five minutes later, you’re still in line, and the cycle repeats…
I recently heard a podcast by movement expert Katy Bowman in which she likened doing “her rounds” on her smartphone to the well worn path a cheetah in the zoo takes between sleeping pad and feeding trough; there’s a wide play area with a mini jungle right there for him, but he chooses the same grooved route over and over every day.
We’ve all done it. With the infinitely reachable technology of smartphones and apps, people have developed a bad habit of reaching for their phones and burying their heads in the little blue light when they’re waiting in line, at stoplights (!), at any glimpse of downtime, etc. Why do we do this? Instead of being present with a moment of stillness, we feel compelled to fill it. Busy is the new normal, and we don’t want to miss out. We don’t want to be bored.
There now exist many tools to counteract the myriad of inputs that bombard us on a daily basis. Longitudinal meditation programs, apps for the phone designed to discourage phone use (The irony!), sleep induction mats, sleep optimization apps, and what Mark Sisson calls “extreme forms of sensory deprivation” (float tank sessions, silent monk-like retreats, etc. Rather than fall prey to the cult of busyness, requiring the use of such counteracting methods, I have recently been trying to just live with some downtime. Every morning when I drive to work (or the first morning drive on a non-workday), I turn off the radio and do a box-breathing meditation. After dinner, I try to leave my phone untouched on the charger and focus on my family. I use the Private Time feature in the settings, which only allows calls from Favorites, and I turn the text volume to silent. I never use Badge App Icons.
Boredom comes with benefits. Daydreaming can lead to a break in creativity; you just might solve that problem you’ve been ruminating on at work. According to ScreenFreeMom (blogging on MinimalistMom), periods of boredom (like what used to happen during summer break before the advent of the myriad camps and activities of today) are also excellent for children in that they foster creative play, enhance relaxation, and cultivate emotional intelligence. All things we should encourage and work toward as an example for our kids.
What about you? Can you stand to be bored? How do you deal with periods of downtime? Share with us here!