Advice | June 17, 2016 9:00 am

The Many Benefits of Doing Nothing at All

Why we could all use a little more boredom in our lives

We spend very little time these days — if any — doing absolutely nothing.

But on May 22nd in Seoul, South Korea, about 70 people competed to do just that.

The annual “Space Out” competition began in 2014. It consists of 90 minutes sans work, talk, sleep and, perhaps most importantly, phones. Even laughing is cause for disqualification. Every 15 minutes, contestants’ heart rates are checked to confirm they’re “in a state of chill”; at the end, the competitor with the most stable heart rate wins.

WoopsYang, the visual artist behind the concept, wanted to shed light on the importance of tuning out of the world. “I would feel extremely anxious if I was sitting around doing nothing, not being productive in one way or another,” she told VICE.  

Research bears that theory out: Dr. Alejandro Lleras says that “avoidance coping,” or our obsession with being occupied by technology at all times, can lead to negative long-term health effects. The antidote? Put down your phone, tune out and embrace boredom (in moderation) — it actually has a ton of benefits.

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Boredom helps you reavaluate your goals
Andreas Elpidorou, researcher at the University of Louisville, calls boredom a “regulatory state” that allows you to see where you are and visualize where you want to be. “Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects,” says Elpidorou.

Boredom leads to more creative thinking
When researchers at the University of Central Lancashire gave test groups a series of tasks with varying levels of boredom and then asked them open-ended question, the participants who faced the most passive tasks also produced the most creative answers to questions. According to their findings, the creativity spawned from an increase in daydreaming — without work or a phone to stimulate your mind, you’re more prone to daydream.

Boredom fosters mindfulness
Actively engaging in boredom is basically the definition of mindful meditation — and a whole slew of health and wellness benefits follow from that, from lower stress levels to a greater enjoyment of music.

And all you have to do is absolutely nothing.