I want you to try something.
It’s not that novel, and it isn’t very revolutionary, but so few people seem to do it nowadays, especially adults:
Take five minutes out of your day, sit down, and do nothing.
In our modern world, we face endless distractions from notifications on our phones, echoes in the back of our minds about what we need to do next, and instantaneous access to amusing articles we can look up and read on our myriad devices (which device are you using to read this right now?). Even though I’ve grown up during the time of tech giants and the rise of social media, I still remember many days spent sitting on my bedroom floor and thinking about all that could be, instead of all that already is.
Research shows that a healthy dose of boredom helps improve creativity. I like to define “creativity” as Tina Seelig at the Stanford d.school does: ideas that are new to you, but need not be unique in the world. When we take away our stimuli, “a restless mind hungers for stimulation,” according to Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Lench; it’s this desire that, when nurtured properly, can open up new pathways, new thoughts, and ideas you hadn’t given yourself a chance to form before.
With that in mind, here’s my challenge to you. Set an alarm for five minutes, then put it (and every other device you have) aside. Shut your laptop. Turn your phone to mute. Sit on the floor or lie down, stare at the ceiling or close your eyes. Let your mind wander.
If you encounter a memory, let it play through. Maybe it’s a poignant scene from your childhood, or a mundane conversation you had yesterday. Don’t worry too much about the specifics.
If you encounter something stressful, let it wash over you. Think about where the stress comes from, acknowledge it, then let it pass.
And if you encounter something wonderful, let it blossom in your mind’s eye.
When the five minutes are up, feel free to check your phone for messages, your social media posts for likes, your feeds for updates on local and world affairs. As you do, ask yourself this: did anything happen that was so important I should have responded to it five minutes ago? I’m willing to bet that the answer is “no”.
On the other hand, what did you gain from the five minutes you set aside? I’m willing to bet that the answer here involves at least something small and positive: thinking through an issue in your life, taking a brief “reset” from a busy day, and, perhaps, a little spark of creativity.
You don’t need to have figured out your life’s purpose, or mentally outlined some novel solution to change the world, in five minutes. By taking five minutes out of your day and continuing to give yourself room to think, you can set yourself up to generate more creative solutions to whatever you consider important. With those five minutes, you can rekindle your imagination.