Researchers discover benefits of boredom for children

June 19, 2024  00:51

It's summertime, and the kids are home from school when one day they walk into the kitchen and say, "I'm bored!"

For parents, the first inclination might be to find something for the children to do: Go play outside. Clean your room. Work on an art project.

But, experts say, don't underestimate the value of just letting kids figure out how to occupy the time on their own, reports

A 2023 Frontiers in Sociology study defined boredom as a "state of mind characterized by a lack of interest, stimulation, or challenge. It is a subjective experience that can manifest in a variety of ways, including restlessness, apathy, and disinterest." Boredom can affect mental health, cognition and behavior, and has links to depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, and increased risk-taking.

How people experience boredom can manifest in different ways and differ by situation, Westgate said, just like how some people may express happiness, sadness, or other feelings differently.

In general, an interconnection exists between the mind, body and heart, according to a 2021 American Heart Association report, which cited the importance of mental health as a component for the well-being of people who have, or are at risk for, cardiovascular disease.

Boredom is different from relaxation. Something that one finds relaxing often involves an activity that still stimulates the mind, such as riding a bike, gardening or reading a book, said Dr. Michael Rich, director and founder of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Boredom may still have a couple physical benefits. For instance, Rich said, someone who is bored at night may find it easier to go to sleep and get more sleep. The benefits of adequate sleep include improved heart health and a lower risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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