PORTLAND, Ore. — All humans need to re-learn how to be bored and tolerate social awkwardness.
We hide behind our phones and screens in the name of efficiency to get as many tasks as we possibly can finished. But really, we’re eliminating all opportunities to interact with other people, whether it be grocery shopping versus ordering groceries online, texting versus a phone call.
Portland psychologist Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee specializes in tech addiction and looks at the brain science behind what all this is doing to us. She speaks all around the country, writes articles and goes on podcasts about it. She’s even written a book. She’s in the middle of writing her second book all about what she’s dubbed as Boredom Parties.
These are some tips to get started with your kids at home, or with adult friends:
“Boredom is so important because it is highly correlated with creativity. The ability to tolerate boredom is also correlated with greater amounts of focus and actually greater amounts of success and competency in our skills. The first thing you do is place your phones in a collective place where it is away from us,” she said as she walked through the KGW Sunrise team through their first Boredom Party.
The doctor started off with a brass bowl and a gong. The reverberating sound lasts for literally 10 minutes. She said beginning with something like that can be a great introduction to force you to relax for that prescribed 10 minutes. Then she spun a swirling blue top on the table and everyone was instructed to look at the blue swirl for 15 seconds then look at the back of your hand. Your eyes play tricks on you and your skin looks like it’s undulating. It’s all part of the process.
“Your central nervous system actually relaxes a little bit doing this,” Dodgen-Magee explained. “And we have a shared experience where we don’t have to be concerned about being awkward.”
“When I have a Boredom Party, I just have games and puzzles out and about. So everybody can grab something that they’re interested in and mindlessly play.” She brought out kinetic sand, what’s called a finger puzzle that you trace into the center of a board, baoding balls that you circle in your hand to which Dodgen-Magee said, “Doing that for three minutes, for instance, will probably lower your blood pressure.”
“We live in a time when we are hyper-aware of productivity and when we have mini-computers in our pockets we think we’re being productive if we send another text in the few minutes we have, or pass another level of our game, rather than saving some of our idle time to try some things that actually increase our creativity. Boredom tolerance is a precursor for being able to self-soothe.”
She says college-age students and young people have their phones out and are usually on them at parties and get-togethers and she does demonstrations at college dorms and offices of how to host these boredom parties. It takes a while for people to warm up, but eventually if she’s scheduled it for two hours, they have a hard time stopping at hour three they’re having such a great time.
Dr. Dodgen-Magee says don’t curate your list of people to invite, make it a random group of people who don’t know each other. Before they come over, tell them to think of a useless skill they have that they can teach other people, it’s a great icebreaker. Then she says if you want music on, make it music that doesn’t have lyrics, they’re too distracting and make you think. And if you’re going to serve alcohol, wait at least one hour into the party. The idea is to make people feel a little uncomfortable and awkward. It’s good for us to re-learn how to cope with those emotions and sharpen our skills.