​Embracing Boredom to Enhance Problem-Solving

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on March 08, 2021 # Lifestyle

Outside of my work in therapy sessions with clients, my mind is always racing – ideas spill out of my brain and pile up until I have a whole mountain of things to do. Go faster. Plan ahead. Make another to-do list. With the exception of slowing down for sessions and using therapeutic silence with my clients, I’m generally always on the go. Part of this may be my natural personality, but I think a lot of it has to do with my experiences of having to adapt quickly and face barriers as a member of the disability community.

Have you ever been in a “fight or flight” mode when faced with an unexpected disability-related problem? Maybe you have arrived somewhere only to notice the building is not accessible, so you have to quickly change your plans. Maybe you receive unexpected news from your insurance provider on a piece of equipment, and you quickly start advocating for yourself. Or maybe you have felt frustrated when a relative doesn’t understand your needs, so you have to provide some education off the top of your head. This pattern of rapidly – and often unexpectedly – having to solve problems may have instilled a go-getter mentality within you. It would make sense that your ability to quickly problem-solve might have translated to becoming a busybody in other areas of your life.

The global pandemic has slowed all of us down. Now, many of us have been forced to limit our productivity in some way, myself included. We’ve had to limit our contact in the community. Running errands isn’t so simple anymore. School operates entirely differently. Business lunches are no longer planned. Most of us are stuck in our homes, and although we’ve tried to keep up with it all, it’s no question that everyone has felt boredom at one point or another through this pandemic.

In contrast to my “busy bee” mentality (and maybe yours), scientists say that boredom can be a good thing, even healthy for our brains. The idea is that boredom can actually trigger our minds to wander or daydream in new, creative ways that can enhance our problem-solving skills. This allows us to escape day-to-day stress and gives us a break from constant “doing.” Sometimes being bored can lead us to pursue new opportunities and allow us to achieve new paths that previously may have been overlooked.

I relate this to our decisions in the face of problems. Sometimes, my life in the fast lane has me moving and grooving so much that I don’t slow down to fully zoom-out to assess a problem. I will jump right into a solution before considering every possible alternative step forward and the pros and cons of each. Quick solutions sound appealing – after all, most of us dislike sitting with problems – but are quick fixes always the right way to go? My experience tells me that answer is no.

As much as I love to get problems off my plate, I have learned over the years that temporarily stepping back from a problem allows me to process the best way to proceed fully. Zooming out from a challenge may seem “boring” at first, but it allows my mind to wander in new ways. I start thinking about the quick solution, the slow solution, the upside-down solution, the solution that requires help from others, the solution that uses my own resources, the solution that everybody thinks about, the solution that nobody thinks about – and the list goes on. And more often than not, I come up with a far better plan than what initially entered my mind.

The rejuvenating experience of slowing down and giving ourselves space to process our realities is one of the reasons that I am so drawn to mental health therapy. When I’m able to slow down, it is the type of luxury that soothes my soul. I have to consciously remind myself to hit the brakes on productivity but doing so has benefited me tremendously in terms of gaining clarity and perspective. I encourage both individuals and caregivers in the paralysis community to embrace boredom – find time in your days to let your mind wander. Consider new alternatives. Zoom out mentally. Explore new paths. Allow the experience of being bored to ignite new thoughts and feelings within yourself – you might be surprised at what you discover.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.