The Importance of Doing Nothing

Robin Basselin and Ryan Geertsma look at the value of doing nothing - of boredom. Can boredom bring creativity?

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Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Robin Basselin.

Voice 2

And I'm Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3

I am bored. I am no longer interested in this game.

Voice 4

I am bored. I have nothing to do.

Voice 5

I am bored. I am tired of my job.

Voice 1

Boredom. People normally think it is a negative emotion. People who are bored are not interested in what they are doing. People naturally do not like being bored. They want to be interested in what they are doing. But this does not always happen. People are often bored. So they try many things to help stop boredom. But, is it always good to try and escape boredom? Can boredom be good? Today's Spotlight is on the positive effects of boredom.

Voice 2

The word boredom does not have a long history in the English language. The first records of the word boredom are from the eighteen hundreds. Before this, people did not speak about the emotion of boredom. Instead, they talked about the way a bored person acted. They used words like lazy or slothful. These words describe a person's lack of doing anything or being interested in anything.

Voice 1

People today may think boredom is bad. However, in the Middle Ages in Europe, people thought it was much worse. They considered being lazy or slothful one of the seven deadly sins. If a person did not avoid these sins, these acts would lead a person toward spiritual death. Today, people may not think that negatively about boredom. But people do try to avoid it as much as possible.

Voice 2

One major way people try to escape boredom is through entertaining forms of technology. When bored, many people will watch television or listen to the radio. Some people will text message friends or watch videos on the internet. And other people will play computer or mobile phone games. There are so many ways to escape boredom through technology.

Voice 1

However, Peter Bregman is not sure escaping boredom is the answer. On his blog, he wrote about how a loss of boredom affected him. He had bought a new computer, an iPad. The iPad could do many things, and these things filled Peter's day. So he decided not to keep it! He wrote:

Voice 6

"It is too good. It is too easy. For the most part, it does everything I could want... Which, I now recognize is a problem."

Voice 2

A problem? How could something being too good be a problem? Peter explained that using the iPad filled all of his time. He was always working and playing on it. And he was never bored. Peter said,

Voice 6

"Being bored is a valuable thing. It is an emotion we should seek. Once we are bored, our minds begin to think freely. Our minds look for something exciting and interesting to think about. And that is when we become creative. My best ideas come to me when I am bored."

Voice 1

Peter Bregman is not alone in his opinion about boredom. In fact, many mental health experts agree that being bored has positive effects. Dr. Edward Hallowell is a mental health doctor and the writer of a book called "Crazy Busy." He told Carolyn Johnson of the Boston Globe Newspaper,

Voice 7

"If you think of boredom as the thing which comes before creativity... then it is a good thing. Boredom is a door to something better, as opposed to something to be hated and escaped immediately."

Voice 2

Dr. Richard Ralley is another mental health expert. He agrees with this idea. He is a teacher at Edge Hill University in England who studies the emotion of boredom. Dr. Ralley told the Boston Globe,

Voice 8

"The most creative people are known to be able to experience long periods of unsureness and boredom."

Voice 1

Dr. Ralley encourages parents to let their children be bored. Children naturally react to boredom with creativity. Children can spend many hours playing games that they create. They play with the simplest of resources - an empty box, some rocks or even a long stick.

Voice 2

But what happens to adults? Adults are not as easily entertained as children. It is natural for people to lose interest in something after doing it for a long period of time. So, over time, adults lose interest in many things that they once enjoyed.

Voice 1

But often, adults lose their creative reaction because they do not let themselves be bored. Many experts say that entertaining technology devices like computers, music players and televisions are not the answer to boredom. Such devices do keep people from thinking about being bored. But they do not really replace boredom. When a television program ends or the radio breaks or the computer loses power, boredom remains.

Voice 2

Dr. Michael Raposa is an expert on boredom and religion from Lehigh University in the United States. He wrote a book called "Boredom and the Religious Imagination." In it, he argues that experiencing boredom can develop how creatively and deeply we think about things. Dr. Raposa recognizes that boredom is going to affect all people. He explains the choice people have when boredom begins.

Voice 9

"We can avoid boredom. In this case we develop set ways to keep us from thinking about boredom. Or we can experience boredom. In this case we develop set ways to increase thoughtfulness."

Voice 1

For example, imagine a mother holding a restless baby. She is moving from right to left in a slow motion. She is trying to settle the baby to sleep. She does this every night and it takes 20 minutes for the baby to fall asleep. After five minutes, the process becomes boring to the mother. At this point, she could decide to turn on the television. She could do this every day and escape the boredom of the event. Or she could decide to experience the boredom. She could watch the small face of the baby and think about the smallness of his mouth, his eyes and his nose. The mother could consider the weakness, smallness and beauty of life. These thoughts may never become a poem or a song. But they are an exercise in the mother's thoughtfulness.

Voice 2

Dr. Raposa believes that the thoughtfulness of boredom can also lead many people to ask big questions - questions about the meaning of life, about God and about our own spirituality. However, he thinks many people fear these questions. He writes,

Voice 9

"There is something basically important about us that only boredom can teach us, but we naturally flee from it. We fill up empty spiritual space with "noise" because we cannot face the empty feeling of boredom."

Voice 1

Do you fear being bored? Do you find ways to escape boredom in your life? Or do you think boredom is important to creativity and faith? Tell us what you think. You can e-mail us at And if you do not know, maybe you should turn off the radio, put down your mobile phone, and just let yourself be bored...

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find this program and others on our website at This program is called "The Importance of Doing Nothing." We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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What do you do when you have nothing to do, when you are bored?


Avatar Spotlight
said on August 12, 2010

Oh! no.
we have to stay happy with we have things to do or not.

adin's avatar
said on August 12, 2010

I am quite agree with what the doctors’ opinion about creativity upon boredom. that’s pretty cool idea. For me, boredom will lead me for laziness or even to sleepiness. I hate this, so to get away from this feeling, i will play with my computer and surf the net for a lot infos about anything or join in some discussion forums. By doing this I could feel free and also I get upgraded.. thanks

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 21, 2010

A good topic. Thanks

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 22, 2011

You always make me happy with every topics. As you said, boredom is something that has its role in our life. Everyone can be in boredom, and everyone should be bored. In Vietnamese poetry, we have some poetic sentences about boredom like this:” Today sky is beautiful. Today the cloud is very high in the sky. I am bored but i don’t know why i am bored.” I like boredom. Boredom makes us feel empty in our mind. It means that we have to fill that feeling to flee boredom. Hence, i always think and find a new approach to live, to act after boredom and kill that boredom. Experiencing a boredom can make us healthier and more creative. Thanks,

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 22, 2011

Another my query, i do not distinguish the difference between two feelings of spirit, “Stress” and “Boredom”. I only think that, “Stress” is the feeling of fullness of works and “Boredom” is the feeling of emptiness of love. Both these feelings push us to the end of the road. We always do not what to do when they come.  Stress is harmful. But, boredom can make us lively. Thanks,

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 23, 2011

What I think about boredom?
I think boredom is a good thing only if it happens occasionally, boredom become a bad thing when it is always present in our days.
But we have Spotlight to avoid boredom!

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 24, 2011

I think, in our life always exist two side:happiness and suffering .And the life is just really meaningful when exist parallel two this side .Same as program’s story,life also have too two side :boredom and exciting.
For me,important problem is by ourselves.
Example,in a match football which team won will feel happiness,but team failed,they felt disappointed…
In Vietnamese,have a idiom::a smile equivalent with ten bottle tonic :)

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 25, 2011

When I was listing this program which was bored.

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 27, 2011

We should not escape of our boring, it is life too… the life is not only happiness… it is pain too…

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 03, 2011

with boring we would deeply understand happiness

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on December 11, 2018

I think that the boredom is very bad and not create any good ideas or creativity on the contrary it is
generates the frustration.
I’m refugee.
I do not have work.
I do not have much money.
I do not have family.
So I have all time.
I have beg boredom.
So I do anything I can do it; Mobile, Computer, TV, or Drinking! (All depends on Money!!!).
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 12, 2018

I never think I’m bored! There are a lot of things to do and I have no time for every them. Time is a trouble when we must to do a lot of things. Sorry, but I can work at a computer. I can play the guitar. I can read two books at the same time. I can talk with my wife and daughters and I have a lesson of spotlightenglish waiting for me… I have no time to be bored!