What To Do When You’re Bored

It’s festive season! For most of you at least. I’ll only be on holiday after December 22nd… I figured talking about boredom would be quite appropriate now, especially since we don’t often know what to do when we have so much of free time.

Do Nothing

This is probably the most difficult thing to do in your free time. I challenge you to sit down and do nothing once in a while. Just stare out of the window or sit in the yard (if you have one). You’ll be amazed at the way your mind won’t sit still.

It generally feels like a ‘waste of time’. Trust me when I tell you, there are enormous benefits to letting your mind wander. You start to conceptualize, reflect, imagine, puzzle certain problems together and just notice more than you usually would.

It’s an incredibly healthy habit, especially for your subconscious. If you have the time and capacity to do this often, try it out and notice the changes in your thought patterns. It also allows you to stay present and be more mindful of your surrounding.

White space (No technology)

This ties in hand-in-hand with the concept of doing nothing. Except in this scenario, you’re encouraged to do activities that are technology-free. This is something you need to schedule. You need to diarize it and make sure you actually allocate time to staying away from technology.

This is helpful for a plethora of reasons, but let’s dive into a few. Firstly, you’ll be able to focus more on your activity and be more present with those around you. Multi-tasking is for losers.

Secondly, you’re keeping a healthy distance from something that is trying its best to grab your attention. We’re at a war here whether you realize it or not. Your attention is the target.

“If you’re not buying the product, you are the product.”

Just think about that for a second… Whenever you find yourself spending time online or playing games for ‘free’, there’s always going to be a catch. How else are these companies making money? Through advertising.

What exactly is advertising all about? Shoving information into your subconscious. Advertisers pay large amounts of money to online companies in a bid war, to try and grab your attention. Just be aware of that fact and spend your time online more consciously.

Thirdly, you’re allowing yourself to detach. Our phones and tablets have slowly forged into our identities. We feel lost, uncomfortable and itchy without them. It’s definitely not a healthy space to be in, so learn to get comfortable being away from your devices.

Reflect

My favourite part of doing nothing! You get to reflect. You get to replay scenarios in your mind and learn from them. You get to analyze your life and learn from your mistakes. You can’t do any of that when you’re hyper-busy or constantly preoccupied.

When you actually allow yourself to stare at the ceiling or out the window, things start to make a little more sense. If it’s uncomfortable, it means you’re growing in some way.

Passion projects

It’s strange how we always complain about not having enough time to purse our passion projects, then waste whatever free time we do end up having.

Once you’ve set time to stay away from technology, engage in activity that makes you feel alive. Something you’ve always enjoyed but never got around to mastering. Something you’re passionate about. It can be anything like painting, reading, writing, playing sports, jogging, hiking, sowing or doing yoga.

If nothing comes to mind when you hear the word ‘passion project’, then try out something new. Get a little adventurous. Leave your comfort zone and learn a new skill.

Grow

The point of this post was to help you see the importance of boredom. It’s something that ultimately helps us grow, as paradoxical as it seems.

Give yourself a break every now and then to recharge and do nothing. Schedule white space into your calendar and maintain a healthy relationship with technology. Use the time that you have to reflect and learn from your experiences. Engage in passion projects or try mastering new skills.

Before you know it, you’ll start loving the concept of being bored. You’ll realize that there’s always something that you can do to grow, even if it’s nothing.

Take a deep breath. Smile. Embrace nothingness. Think of everything you’re grateful for. Flourish.

Social media through a positive lens

Do you also really love sharing memes? Have you found it easy to virtually communicate with family and friends recently? Why do we enjoy posting pics of us travelling?

How often do we focus on the benefits that we derive from social media? Okay maybe a few of you addicts have those ready for argument’s sake, but I mean it from a place of inspiration, guidance and service.

I’ve been asked to write an alternative view to my older post about social media. I’ll discuss how we’re able to stay connected, being a source of inspiration, finding motivation, using creative outlets, learning to surf the web and understanding two sides of a story.

Let’s dive into some healthy perspectives and learn how to face the digital tsunami we’re inevitably experiencing.

Staying connected

The lock down has shown us what a monumental resource technology has been, especially connecting through social media. We’re able to stay in touch with our friends and family from all over the world, doing so now more than ever before.

Video calling friends and family can be incredibly healing, especially when you can’t travel to see them. I think we have a lot to be grateful for, especially the fact that we’re not dealing with the 1918 pandemic. Imagine if the only way to communicate with the rest of the world was through pigeons?

Shutterstock

I do hope that your communication extends further than liking and commenting on posts, as that isn’t really ‘connecting’.

Being a source of inspiration

We have an incredible ability to influence people on social media. Why not utilize this to help other people? If you ever feel like you’d want to serve a cause greater than yourself, it’s now easier than ever before to do just that.

Social media enables us to post about aspects of our lives that could benefit other people. Sharing your exercise regime, your daily habits, the recipes for your Insta-worthy food, your studying routine, your poetry, your philosophy, how you deal with your mental health and so much more, can all greatly encourage people.

There are various ways for us to make the most of our time spent on social media, we just have to be conscious of the energy and content we upload / expose ourselves to.

So long as we’re intentional about why we do what we do, we can all contribute positively.

Creative outlet

As mentioned above regarding sources of inspiration, social media can be used as a creative outlet. It allows people to make a living off sharing their art and what truly matters to them. Remember that art isn’t restricted to a specific genre like drawing. It’s about finding a way to express yourself and allowing people to connect with you in a unique way.

This has also enabled us to work from home and keep going with ‘business as usual’. Being in lock-down has been an incredible source of creativity for many people, as we’ve finally made time to focus more on what matters.

It has also enabled people to start thinking genuinely about what they want to achieve in their life. We’re not limited to 9-5 jobs in an office desk anymore. We have the world at our very fingertips.

Finding motivation

When things get overwhelming and difficult, we can search for ways to stay motivated. There are so many people who upload content specifically to encourage people, to keep them going, to help them stay on track. If you’re ever feeling a little overwhelmed, learn about how others deal with that same feeling.

Sharing our stories and accomplishments can allow us to be a source of motivation to others. When you see other people overcoming hurdles, it empowers you to keep trying. When you see that you’re not alone in this, it helps you feel related to.

This all depends on how well you’re able to work the algorithms and keep your feed in check. We need to learn about exposing ourselves to relevant content.

Learning how to surf the internet

For us to adequately deal with waves of change, we need to learn how to surf. The internet is just a bunch of web-pages that represent gnarly waves. We have to make sure we tread the waters carefully, by studying and actively seeking ways to understand it.

Here’s a great YouTube series to help you with that:

There’s a lot of chaos and misinformation amongst the memes and selfies. We need to become aware of how fake news also tends to go viral; spreading corruption in a different form.

We need to find a balance. The very same resources that we use to empower ourselves, can be used against us. The quality of our relationships, our attention span, the subconscious and even childhood development are all being heavily influenced by the presence of social media and technology.

Two sides of a story

How often have you found yourself defending a story after hearing only 1 side of it? You trust that person or source, therefore, believe them entirely without doing your own research.

We need to understand that social media, like all media platforms, feed off engagement. When people post offensive or contradictory statements, it gains traction and starts trending. We all hop on the bandwagon and join in, further fueling engagement.

So my point here is that we’re barely able to hear two sides of a story IRL, imagine how much tougher it is on social media? We just need to be intentional and a little more conscious of how we’re allowing the technology to seep into every aspect of our lives.

A wise man once said: “Stay woke.”

Regardless of what your stance is, you need to become adept at navigating digital information.

We can find resources to stay motivated and use ourselves to inspire others. We can unleash our creativity in incredible ways and share it with the world around us. There’s so much that we have to be thankful for, especially how we’re able to stay connected using social media.

It’s just as important to stay aware of the influence social media has on us. We need to put in a little effort to understand the navigation, so that we don’t drown in information. There’s much more to it than the click-bait or headline.

I’d like to thank you for your time and support, it always means a great deal to me. We’re all in this together, so we should always share whatever beneficial knowledge we have. I’m going to end this by repeating the quote I used in my previous post on social media.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

Erik Qualman

Mindful Monday #3

Another beautiful day to be mindful. Before we get going, smile, look at the world around you and take in 3 deep breaths. Now let’s talk about food, auto-pilot, gratitude and habits.

Food

We definitely have work to do when it comes to eating mindfully. How exactly?

By focusing on your food more. Paying more attention to the texture, the smell and the taste of it. Did you know that 80% of the flavour we taste is acquired through smelling? (Google it haha)

Technology has become quite an ingrained aspect of our lives. Separating it from food however, will definitely help us enhance our life experience.

I can’t be the only one who has conditioned myself to eat while watching series, sports or YouTube videos. Let’s try to be aware of that and change our habits accordingly.

When you eat mindfully and are truly grateful for what you have, there’s so much blessing in it.

Auto-Pilot

We’re quite algorithmic. There’s so much that we do without a conscious thought. Brushing your teeth, getting into the car, scrolling on your phone, making food, changing into your outfit.

Are robots becoming more like us, or are we becoming more like them?

We could try paying a little more attention to the way the water feels when we’re washing the dishes, the way the milk tastes in our tea or the feeling of the wind stroking our hair.

This trains the mind to be present, which allows us to focus on what truly matters. Mindfulness is a practice which aligns our thoughts with our feelings, allowing us to actually experience the world.

Habits

Don’t get me wrong here, operating on auto-pilot makes us highly efficient. It saves our brain a lot of time and energy, by following routine without needing to think.

The only problem with that is that we don’t fully appreciate all that we have. We subconsciously take certain aspects of our life for granted, because we don’t spend enough time thinking about it.

By incorporating mindfulness into our habits, we can start feeling truly grateful for our blessings. Considering we can only be grateful in the present, why not focus on what we have a little more?

Spend more time focusing on your food. Consciously take in the scents and aromas of what you’re indulging. Focus a little more during your routine, to train your brain to be present. Think about how blessed you are as often as you can, it’ll truly change your life.

Social media

Do you also feel like we’re all turning into cyber-zombies? Does it seem like everyone spends more time on their phones than with the people around them? Why do we find so much comfort in our devices?

This is one of the most important topics that I want to discuss, especially entering a new decade. How social media is absorbing us all, causing some form of digital dementia. You’ve heard the famous saying: We’re more connected than ever before, yet we all feel lonelier than ever before.

So what is it about social media that grabs our attention? And what can we do in light of this hyper-normalization?

I’m going to start by talking about my own experiences, the psychology behind social media and how to move forward.

My experiences

I spent 2018 on a social media sabbatical: deleting Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat & Facebook. I returned in 2019, with a lot more awareness and discipline.

It’s often really hard to imagine giving social media up. Our first defensive instinct: It’s how I stay in touch with my friends/family! Can you imagine your life without all the cyber distractions?

You’d have way more free time than you’d be willing to believe. Not only that, you’ll be left with your thoughts for several moments at a time; how daunting. This is not me trying to convince you to get rid of all your social media, but just to share the lessons I’ve learnt on how we can use it more effectively.

The reason I decided to leave social media for a year was because of my break-up. In December 2017, I went through a very turbulent emotional phase. I was trying to deal with ‘heartbreak’.

I realized that what made it so difficult for me to get over my ex, was how easy it was to see her online presence. It left me in a strange mode. Constantly stalking, comparing, judging and feeling unworthy.

When I first got off social media, it felt alien. I had no idea what to do. No more worrying about my feed, posting on my story, tweeting random thoughts or taking unnecessary selfies on snap chat.

A few days in, I realized how much free time I had. This tempted me to re-download some of the apps out of boredom. Luckily, I came across this insightful quote that helped me: “Habits cannot be erased, they can only be replaced.” Understanding that led me to start reading & meditating.

A week into the sabbatical, I realized that my attention span started rapidly improving. My brain was getting out of the “swipe swipe swipe, like, comment, swipe swipe swipe” thought process. I began focusing a lot better.

One of the most important aspects that changed: My relationships started to flourish. I started being more present with people I cared about and spent time with. I spent less time showing off snippets of my life to impress people I barely know.

That fundamentally changed the wiring in my brain, because I was becoming less dependent on the dopamine rush from getting likes and comments. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

A massive illusion of social media is that you’re staying in touch with people. But liking, commenting and occasionally reacting to a story is not staying in touch.

It’s an artificial connection. We keep faking the same idea to ourselves until we’re convinced it’s the only way to live. But it’s not.

The psychology behind it

To ease the tension a little bit, I want you to understand a fundamental aspect of social media; the current intention behind its creation. It’s designed by scientists/psychologists/programmers who have dedicated their lives to ensure you spend as much time on the app as possible. Why?

Your attention (or time) = profit.

If you pay attention to the amount of data that’s being sold from all your searches, likes, swipes and posts, you’d be rather frightened. I’m saying this because you need to understand that your addiction is not entirely your fault.

It was created to be as absorbing and as charming as possible. Much like this world in the eye of a believer. Temporary, deceptive and full of temptations.

When you understand the way ads affect your subconscious and the way it’s abusing your mental power, you’d be more inclined to make better decisions. Remember: Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results.

How do we move forward? 

Learn more and stay conscious of the time you spend online. We’re entering an age where it’s more comfortable to stare at your screen when you’re bored than stare out of the window. (The latter provides the mind with impeccable subconscious insight).

We feel awkward, almost alien, when we’re waiting and not constantly checking our phones. Use the time limits on the apps and respect them. Encourage those around you to minimize their social media usage and try to have technology-free gatherings.

This will contribute to your mental health and hopefully improve the loneliness epidemic that we’re currently experiencing. You don’t necessarily realize it, but you’re always comparing yourself to other people online.

Whether you choose to accept that or not is up to you, your unconscious does 95% of the work for you anyway.

I know some of this may have been a little intense and that I could’ve covered a lot more ground. But this is as brief as I could make it.

I’m not trying to force anyone to change or to get you all to abandon social media and start living in a forest (although I wish I was). But for the sake of your happiness and mental clarity, spend a little more time being present with your weird thoughts and feelings, instead of scrolling aimlessly.

Let’s try to be a little less zombie-like, a little more present, and a lot more loving. Stop worrying about taking a picture of every moment, and start living in it.

Nothing contributes to a healthy relationship as much as active listening and honest communication. That just isn’t as effective when your phone is in your hand.

We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.

Erik Qualman

(A little ironic how I took pics to post on my blog, then talking about living in the moment haha).

Growth? Sleep!

I’d like to discuss a very critical aspect of growth in this post, which is related to sleep and recovery. This is especially relevant to my university peers as well as the working class, in fact to everybody. I’ll be discussing the inconsistencies in our day to day sleep schedules, the effect sleep deprivation has on memory, learning and immunity, as well as the effect technology has on our circadian rhythm. Finally, I’ll speak about what to do to improve the quality of sleep and how to fall off to sleep faster.

During sleep, when your body may be resting, your mind is busy with processing information that you’ve accumulated over the day. Sleep is required in order to consolidate memories, and has a profound impact on learning. A sleep deprived person cannot focus optimally and therefore their learning becomes inefficient, brain becomes foggy, mental health is affected and motor skills become hindered. Let’s dive into a little more detail on how sleep deprivation affects us.

Memory

Memories form through 3 different steps:

  • Acquisition: Introduction of new information into the brain.
  • Consolidation: Process by which memory becomes stable and ingrained.
  • Recall: Ability to access the information after it has been stored.

Acquisition and recall are both functions which are generally processed during wakefulness, whilst consolidation/storage, only occurs during sleep. This is because when the brain has adequate time and energy to rest, it can strengthen the neural connections between the neocortex and hippo-campus (part of the brain responsible for long term memory storage). During Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, memories become more stable. REM is also known as the time when you dream. Other types of memories form during non-REM, when you’re in a much deeper, slow-wave sleep. This helps the experiences that occur during the day to become more memorable and easily accessed. Sleep deprivation therefore hinders the ability to properly store new information, whether it be through acquired knowledge, experiences or muscle memory.

Learning

Sleep plays a vital role in our ability to learn new skills, especially those requiring motor coordination and optimal performance. Sleep deprivation doesn’t only affect the consolidation of memories, it also has an impact on how we receive and recall information. The neurons responsible for those connections become overworked, making it more difficult to access previously learned information.

The lack of focus, vigilance and attention due to inadequate sleep, also impairs decision-making and judgement. Subsequently, this affects our mood, which is directly related to our ability to acquire and recall information. For the gym-aholics and those who generally stay physically active, sleep is a key component for strength and endurance. This is proven in muscle recovery and growth, whereby during sleep, the blood supply available to your muscles increase, which in turn allows for extra oxygen and nutrients to be delivered. This facilitates further healing and growth, which muscles and tissues need for rejuvenation. New cell are also regenerated during sleep and this is coupled with our immunity.

Immunity

Whilst you’re asleep, your immune system releases cytokines. These are proteins which promote sleep, and are needed to deal with infections or inflammations. Lack of sleep therefore, affects the production of the cytokines, which directly affects the immune system. This decreases the body’s natural infection-fighting antibodies and can make you more sick-prone. This further affects inflammation within the body, which may assist in heart disease.

The following TED talk inspired a lot of what I’ve been discussing, and is a great watch:

Now I know a lot of that sounds quite dark and scary, especially since it’s not all that easy to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep (keep in mind that anything over 9 hours of sleep also has similar health consequences). But there are a few ways to improve the quality of our sleep, to ensure we maximize the benefits and keep our health in peak condition. It’s quite important to be aware of these effects, since better awareness results in better choices, which ultimately results in better results.

Better Sleep:

  • No technology
  • Regularity
  • Cool temperature
  • Associate your room with going to sleep
  • Exercise

For better sleep, one of the first aspects is to stay away from technology at least 30-60 minutes before bed time. This is because of the blue light emitted from devices, which as a lot of you may already know, affects the melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone which regulates the sleep-wake cycles, and the secretion is suppressed when we expose ourselves to blue light. A way around this, is to use blue light filters, which are readily available on any app store. Regularity is another important factor in terms of getting healthy sleep. Waking up and going to bed at the same time everyday, complements your circadian rhythm, and facilitates your internal alarm clock; making it easier to fall asleep and to wake up.

Cool temperatures (16-21 degrees Celsius) allow for the body to fall into deeper sleep, faster. This stimulates the sleep cycles and helps with the REM stage. Physiological changes are also optimized, whereby the central core in the body naturally decreases in temperature. The low temperature also enhances the metabolism, which is responsible for the body’s energy extraction. This in turn, helps burn calories and store healthier fats.Another point in improving the quality of sleep, would be to associate your bedroom with going to sleep. Try and leave out other activities such as watching TV, playing video games, studying or doing any other form of work, out of your bedroom. This allows for your mind to associate your room with resting, and makes it easier for you to fall asleep at night. Exercising during the day is also an excellent way to help with sleep, as your body naturally feels the need for recovery and building up a sweat will make you feel tired. Combining these routines will ultimately improve your ability to fall off to sleep faster, which can sometimes be a problem on its own.

Islamic Perspective

From an Islamic point of view, there are a few Sunnahs (practices of the prophet Muhammed [Peace be upon him]) that one can follow. The most common would be to sleep on your right side, with your hand under your cheek. To perform ablution (Wudhoo) before going to bed and supplicating. The specific timings to go to bed and for waking up are after Esha (the final night prayer) and to wake up before Fajr (the first prayer in the morning), ensuring that the compulsory prayers are performed before going to bed. Another point would be to dust and clean the bed before going to sleep.

I’d like to also mention how important it is to wake up early. I’ve recently come across the book ‘The 5 AM Club’ by Robin Sharma, and it was phenomenal (highly recommended). I’ll dive deeper into it in the next post, where I’ll couple the benefits of a healthy sleep pattern with a healthy waking up pattern. Combined, it’ll hopefully allow you to maximize your day to day efforts in becoming legendary.

To put it all together, lack of sleep will not add any benefits to your life, in fact it only makes your life shorter. There’s no use sacrificing the precious hours you have to allow your body to grow and recover, in order to watch series, play video games or even party. Appreciate the fact that to stay healthy and live a better life, you need to focus on the very basic necessities needed as a human being. That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy yourself or ever stay up late, but just keep in mind that in needs to be balanced. Missing a few days of healthy sleep can be tolerated, but once it becomes consistent, it can accumulate to detrimental effects. Being aware of the consequences enables you to make better decisions, which will support you in achieving better results. Your memory, ability to learn, energy levels and immunity are all at stake when you pull all-nighters, so think twice before making that sacrifice. Optimizing your sleep can be accomplished through several different habits; staying away from technology, regulating your sleeping pattern, keeping the environment at a cool temperature and associating your bedroom with sleep. I’ll leave with a brilliant quote and I wish you all a good night’s rest.

“Even a soul submerged in sleep, is hard at work and helps make something of the world.”

Heraclitus