2 minutes 39 seconds
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What happens to us if we never get bored? It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the default mode. So our body, it goes on autopilot while we're folding the laundry or we're walking to work, but Actually, that is when our brain gets really busy. So this is my brain in an fMRI, and I learned that in the default mode, that is when we connect disparate ideas, we solve some of our most nagging problems, and we do something called autobiographical planning. This is when we look back at our lives, we take note of the big moments, we create a personal narrative, and then we set goals and we figure out what steps we need to take to reach them.
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Here's boredom researcher Dr. Sandy Mann.
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Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wonder, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. It's really awesome, actually.
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But now we chill out on the couch, also while updating a Google doc or replying to email. Here's what neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levison says we're actually doing.
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Every time you shift your attention from 1 thing to another, the brain has to engage a neurochemical switch that uses up nutrients in the brain to accomplish that. So if you're attempting to multitask, you know, doing 4 or 5 things at once, you're not actually doing 4 or 5 things at once because the brain doesn't work that way. Instead, you're rapidly shifting from 1 thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.
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So a decade ago, we shifted our attention at work every 3 minutes. Now we do it every 45 seconds and we do it all day long. The average person checks email 74 times a day and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day. Researchers at USC have found they're studying teenagers who are on social media while they're talking to their friends or they're doing homework. And 2 years down the road, they are less creative and imaginative about their own personal futures and about solving societal problems.
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So the next time you go to check your phone, ask yourself, what am I really looking for? Because if it's to check email, that's fine, do it and be done. But if it's to distract yourself from doing the hard work that comes with deeper thinking? Take a break. Stare out the window and know that by doing nothing, you are actually being your most productive and creative self.
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It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but boredom truly can lead to brilliance.
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