THE SCIENCE OF BOREDOM – CAROLINE WILLIAMS
[Feature Editor of the New Scientist, TEDx speaker and Author of ‘Override’
Boredom is experienced when one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity. It is essential as it allows for reflection and creativity.
On average, each individual in the UK is bored for 6 hours a day. This translates to 13 days a year or a whole 786.5 days within a lifetime. Whilst you might think it a problem and great waste of resources, being bored is an important aspect of life and an absolute necessity to us. It gives rise to creativity and imagination; letting your mind wander.
We had the pleasure to welcome Dr Caroline Williams at Perception Society for our second lecture this academic year. Discussing brain training techniques and her quest to ‘take control of her mind’ in her book ‘Override’, she is also feature editor of the New Scientist and a TEDx speaker. She has also presented and produced radio programs at various stations.
Dr Williams first introduced pupils to the different types of boredom, revealing to us that everyone experiences boredom differently. By categorising boredom into 5 categories, from being bored in a positive state, where boredom is a pleasant experience, to apathetic boredom, where boredom becomes a negative state of mind. In explaining these different boredom ‘personalities’, each student was able to identify which type they belonged to.
But what should you do when boredom takes over? Use it! Mind wandering might not be as bad as your teachers might suggest it is- it can be incredibly productive in helping you come up with a new angle for a story. Of course that doesn’t mean that all mind wandering is beneficial, as Dr Williams explained that there needs to be some flexibility between mind wandering and focus to gain the most from each.
“The cure for boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure for curiosity. “
In her quest for answers about boredom, Dr Williams visited the Kansas Psychology department on creativity. Sometimes, ‘thinking outside the box’ can be taken a little too literally by the use of TDCS machines; aimed at increasing focus with electric currents. Whilst Dr Williams participated in a psychology experiment where different areas of her brain were activated by zapping her head, embracing boredom can be just as effective. Let things back off a little, take it bit by bit. Approaching boredom and accepting it is better than being frustrated by it and turning to other mediums of release such as stress eating or risky behaviours.
Dr Williams gave a truly fascinating lecture, which helped answer many questions about a topic so commonly experienced in our everyday lives. Our work at Perception has a focus on academic enrichment and extension of learning and on this occasion, the event was twinned with a book signing opportunity, where pupils could purchase a signed copy of her book.
Joint article by:
Photo credits: Luis Enriquez