Creativity comes at unusual times: in the shower, when you’re out for a walk, seemingly when we aren’t doing anything—when we’re bored. Adam Wernick from Studio 360 highlights a recent project being undertaken by Manoush Zomorodi, the host of WNYC’s New Tech City podcast. It’s called “Bored and Brilliant,” and it has been designed to explore the intersection of creativity and boredom—an interesting topic that’s not without scientific backing.
Zomorodi believes there’s a connection between the two, and believes smartphones may be interfering with our brain’s natural process to wander. In her own life she has noticed a trend—whenever she becomes bored, she reaches for her phone–immediately occupying herself.
Zomorodi has spoken to several scientists who have examined how boredom affects our minds, allowing us to become creative. Though, the link between smartphones stiffing that creativity is just a thought—there’s no research to link them. But there’s plenty of research to show an idle, unengaged mind yields some very unique thoughts and ideas.
One of the scientists she interviewed, Jonny Smallwood, a neuroscientist who studies “mind wandering,” found some interesting activity when he put patients through a scanner and told them to look at a fixed point:
“When you’re given nothing to do, it certainly seems that your thoughts don’t stop. You continue to generate thought even when there’s nothing for you to do with the thoughts.”
Zomorodi believes that this kind of brain downtime could help lead people to their “a-ha” moments in life. So, in order to help people tap into that underutilized creativity, she’s developed an app called Moment. It tracks phone usage from day to day and how many times you may pick it up “just to check it.” The app gives users daily challenges to attempt to endure some phone downtime in order to help rev up your brain for a moment of creativity.
“For example, the very first day is called ‘Put it in your pocket.’ When you are in transit, you are not to look at your phone. Your phone is not going to be there.”
It’s worth a try. Perhaps in transit, try unoccupying yourself and staring off at a fixed point. Let us know if you have any big ideas.
Read more at Studio 360.
Photo Credit: Yasser Alghofily/Flickr