Get Bored and Enjoy a Daydream …

“Daydream, imagine, and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity.”

Deepak Chopra

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I was holding a ladder for my husband.  The sun was on my back, my hands were tight on the ladder, the ladder leaned precariously.  The sensor light that he was trying to install was not being co-operative and it was all taking much longer than anticipated.  I couldn’t check my phone, my hands were on the ladder; I couldn’t walk away, the ladder might fall; I was stuck there, unable to ‘do’ anything and had to be present to keep my husband safe.  I was bored and in this space of focused inaction, my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for a new book.  The cover ‘appeared’ in my mind’s eye, I ‘heard’ dialogue, I ‘felt’ characters.  I got so excited!  I wanted to run inside and take some notes . . . but there was still that damn ladder to hold. . .

I was floating on my back in the sea near my house; I was the only one on the beach.  The sun was on my face and I drifted aimlessly.  I had to be focused so I wouldn’t sink or float too far out, but I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything.  I was in a state of focused inaction, and my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for an online workshop.  The whole content just seemed to download into me.  I started to shake and quake, almost as though a stingray had stung me (some do occasionally visit our beach.) I jumped out of the water and ran up to my house shaking with excitement.  I started telling my husband what had happened and he asked what I was going to do with this new info. I burst into tears and said, “I have no idea!”  The idea had downloaded but I had no clue how to move forward with it. Creative thought and logical next steps don’t always coincide. But the creative idea had come and I had to trust that eventually all would become clear . . .

I was curious – was this focused inactivity a precursor to creative thought? I did some research and found that boredom and daydreaming do indeed open us up to creative thought.

“When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

So what actually happens to us when we are bored? I discovered that when we get bored, we ignite a circuit in our brain called the ‘Default Mode.’

In a Psychology Today article, investigative journalist, Manoush Zomorodiexplains:

“We tend to think of boredom as the exact opposite of productivity, but leading neuroscientists are starting to believe that boredom is the secret sauce that can 10x creative potential. Your brain has a resting state that scientists are calling ‘default mode.’

‘Default mode’ is like the screensaver on your computer that comes on to keep things moving when there’s not a whole lot going on. It is your brain on autopilot and it switches on when we’re doing menial activities like washing dishes or going through predictable, daily routines like driving to work or school.”

One study found that people who want to come up with creative ideas would do well to let their minds drift. The study reported in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who allow themselves to become bored  “are more likely to engage in sensation seeking.”  When bored, people look for things that engage their minds and stimulate the brain’s reward centers; and these people tend toward more “divergent thinking styles” and the ability to come up with creative new ideas.

Boredom Researcher and Senior Psychology Lecturer, Dr. Sandi Mann explains:

Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. The subconscious is not constrained by a need to put order to things. The subconscious is much freer.”

Several studies have reinforced the fact that the connections between different parts of our brains increase when we are daydreaming.

In other words, Default Mode switches on during mindless activity or focused inactivity, time that you allow your mind to wander, and this mind wandering time allows us to move beyond our conscious connections and different connections start to take place. Boredom often leads to daydreaming, and daydreaming seems to spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation. Heather Lench, from the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Texas A & M explains: “Boredom becomes a seeking state. Whatever you’re doing is not quite satisfying for your brain, so it seeks stimulation.”

Daydreaming incubates creative discovery.” – Daniel Goleman

One writer believes that this subconscious probing process suggests that we are hardwired for creativity:

By probing into our subconscious, our brain uses, develops, and strengthens abstract connections that we don’t rely on heavily during regular, logical thought processes. Using these neural connections improves the communication pathways between the different areas of our brain. And this results in more effective communication between brain cells and more cognitive abilities. The fact that neural networks expand and diversify during bouts of boredom suggests that human beings are hardwired to create, design, imagine, invent, and develop new thoughts, ideas, stories, music, and arts.”

Dr. Mann has found that the key to thinking more creatively is to make sure you have some downtime to allow your mind to wander. She even suggests scheduling “daydreaming” time or doing activities like swimming or walking (or holding ladders?) where your mind is able to wander without electronic distraction.

Dr. Jerome Singer, specialist in research on the psychology of imagination and daydreaming, supports the idea of scheduling time for your mind to wander.

Intentionally allowing your mind to wander allows it to access memories and meaningful connections. When you’re bored, you’re tapping into your unconscious brain, picking up long-lost memories and connecting ideas.“

Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers, explains that the ability to fully access our knowledge, memories, experiences, and imagination helps guide us to those incredible ‘ah ha’ or ‘light bulb’ moments.

“This calm and slightly detached state, which is the hallmark of daydreaming, helps to ‘quiet the noise’ so that we can experience the answer or connection . . . we are able to link up to disparate ideas and even envision things and experiences that haven’t happened in the realm of our knowledge or experience.”

So the next time you’re bored and you reach for you phone to play Candy Crush or check your Facebook page, instead let your mind wander and daydream a bit, you never know what creative idea might spark into being.

I’ll close with the inspirational TED Talk by Manoush Zomorodi entitled: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas.

 

I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with boredom, daydreaming and creativity.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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Creativity – Externalizing the Internal Stuff

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn

Get the Crap Out! That is what we oh so graciously call it in our workshops.  Shrek had it right: Better Out than In!

Sometimes shedding light on the negative stuff and the obstacles is difficult, but it’s always better to look at it and deal with it rather than pretend it’s not there.

The exercise is from Week Three, Day Two of my book, This Way Up.

Deb and I talk about the process in this video.  I’d love to hear your feedback, not only of the video, but also of the process if you have tried it yourself.

 

I would really love to hear you thoughts on this process.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Science of a Meaningful Life

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn


My friend Jayne sent me a wonderful link the other day.  It is so full of wonderful info that it kept me busy reading and listening for days! Thank you Jayne!  It’s from one of my very favorite sites that I have talked about before, Greater Good out of Berkeley.

I often talk about happiness in my blog, as a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite subjects.  But it’s not as simple as saying “Be Happy and your life will be grand.”

Happiness is good for you, but not all the time; empathy ties us together, and can overwhelm you; humans are born with an innate sense of fairness and morality, that changes in response to context. This has been especially true of the study of mindfulness and attention, which is producing more and more potentially life-changing discoveries.

One of the key points in the article is that:

A meaningful life is different—and healthier—than a happy one.

So what’s the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life? A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains a few of the differences:

Feeling good and having one’s needs met seem integral to happiness but unrelated to meaning. Happy people seem to dwell in the present moment, not the past or future, whereas meaning seems to involve linking past, present, and future. People derive meaningfulness (but not necessarily happiness) from helping others—being a “giver”—whereas people derive happiness (but not necessarily meaningfulness) from being a “taker.” And while social connections are important to meaning and happiness, the type of connection matters: Spending time with friends is important to happiness but not meaning, whereas the opposite is true for spending time with loved ones.

One of the most significant findings to have emerged from the sciences of happiness and altruism is that altruism boosts happiness.  Spending on others makes us happier than spending on ourselves.  The emotional benefits of altruism suggest that it is a product of evolution, perpetuating behavior that “may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history.” And mindfulness meditation makes people more altruistic.  Greater Good hosted a conference called “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion,” where speakers made the case that the practice of mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding—doesn’t just improve our individual health but also makes us more compassionate toward others.

The article is full of wonderful information.  In my opinion it is well worth the read.

Embedded within the article are several videos from the conference. I will include one here called Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.  I hope if you have the time and the inclination that you will watch all of the videos.  They are uplifting and inspirational.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of the article and the videos, I’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Your Brain on Meditation

“People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing – and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.”

– Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert – Research psychologists from Harvard University


There is a website I enjoy a lot, a website that “exercises the brain.”  Lumiosity is a great website that “challenges your brain with scientifically designed training.”  I like to think of it as wasting time playing games that are somewhat useful and not just a total of a waste of time.  Recently they published an article that explains “Meditation’s Effects on Alpha Brain Waves.

“A new study out of Brown University has found that a form of mindfulness meditation known as MBSR may act as a “volume knob” for attention, changing brain wave patterns.  Originally developed by a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is based on mindfulness meditation techniques that have been practiced in some form or another for over two millennia.”

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.  And is a central tenet of the work being done at The University of Wisconsin by Dr. Richard Davidson that I have talked about a lot on my blog.

In the recent study discussed in the article on Luminosity, researchers examined how meditation affects Alpha Brain Waves, and how Alpha Waves affect cognition.

Alpha rhythms help filter irrelevant sensory inputs in the brain. Without proper filtering, the ability to carry out many basic cognitive operations can be crippled. This Brown University study is in line with other research on meditation, confirming previous findings that link enhanced attentional performance and fewer errors in tests of visual attention with meditation.

Yet another reason to meditate.  If I know it’s so good for me, then why is it so damned hard to sit down and sit quietly for only 10 minutes a day?!  I mean really!  Why is it so hard to commit to a such a simple discipline? A discipline that is simply asking me to sit down and not do anything for such a short time each day when I know for a fact it is so good for me?

For Christmas, I gave my sister Karin and I identical date books for 2014:  Live With Intention.  And Karin and I decided that we would set an individual intention together at the beginning of each month for the year.  So I have decided that my intention for March, 2014 is to meditate for at least 10 minutes everyday.  There, it’s in writing. (*My brain immediately said “Damn – March has 31 days too, why couldn’t you have made that your intention for February!)

I want to close with a great 10 minute TED Talk by Andy Puddicombe about meditation.  It comes from a fantastic TED Talk series:  4 scientific studies on how meditation can affect your heart, brain and creativity

Enjoy!

 

I promise to let you know how I’m doing meditating everyday – And I’d love to hear about how any of you have the discipline to keep meditating.