Boredom can spark bright ideas: Research finds adults given dull tasks to do come up with more imaginative concepts

t's one of the things we whine about most – but it’s actually good to be bored. Studies show that allowing the mind to wander fuels creativity.  

Researcher Sandi Mann said that far from being a waste of time, being a little bit bored can actually be good for us.

And she warned that our modern-day obsession with smartphones and other gadgets could be stifling this creativity because time we would now have spent daydreaming is now taken up with emailing, texting or surfing the internet.

Similarly, children could benefit from having some time to themselves, rather than being constantly entertained.

To prove her theory, Dr Mann gave 80 adults two polystyrene cups and asked them to come up with as many uses for them as possible.

Half of the men and women got straight to work. The other half spent 15 minutes writing out phone numbers first.

As a result, they came up more ideas about how to use the cups, the British Psychological Society magazine, the Psychologist reports.

A second experiment showed a repetitive reading task to be even more effective at sparking the imagination.

Dr Mann, of the University of Central Lancashire, said this may be because reading requires less concentration than writing, allowing more scope for daydreaming.

She said: ‘I am acutely aware that being bored is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

‘It is good to be bored sometimes.

‘I think up so many ideas when I am commuting to and from work.

Daydreaming: Our obsession with gadgets has left little time for getting bored and daydreaming, Dr Sandi Mann (pictured) has warned

‘This would be dead time, but thanks to the boredom it induces, I come up with all sorts of projects.’

However, she warned that our love phones and other gadgets means we are in danger of forgetting how to be bored.

She said: ‘No one ever stands waiting for a bus or train without playing on their phone. Whenever we have got a moment to fill, we get our phone out.’

Dr Mann also believes it is important for children to be bored.

She said: ‘We seem to be afraid of our kids being bored but boredom can lead to creativity and if you stifle the boredom, you stifle the creativity.

‘I am quite happy when my kids whine that they are bored.

‘Finding ways to amuse themselves is an important skill.’

However, it is important not to be too bored.

Dr Mann has also showed that bored office workers seek solace in chocolate and alcohol.

She said: ‘It’s about finding the right balance.

‘Too much boredom can be destructive but too many people just don’t allow a little bit of boredom into their life.’