Why Zoning Out Can Be Good for You

We all have times when we find ourselves waiting, with nothing to do. Perhaps it's in the waiting room of our doctor’s office, at an auto repair, or during a quiet time at work. Normally when this happens, our instinct is to reach for our smartphone to scroll through social media or check our email, as doing something feels more productive than doing nothing. Although we think of zoning out as being unproductive or boring, there’s evidence to suggest that it’s far more enjoyable and productive than we realize. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that people consistently underestimated how enjoyable it was to simply sit and wait in a quiet room, without busying themselves. When we turn off all distractions, it allows space for our subconscious to expand, ultimately boosting our creativity. When distracted, our mind jumps to the most obvious answers when trying to solve problems, but once we take the time to exhaust those options, we end up thinking of breakthrough, inventive answers that can lead to some life-changing ideas. Doing nothing also lets us know when something is wrong. When we’re constantly buzzing around, checking off our to-do list, it’s easy to ignore emotions and miss out on what that inner voice is trying to tell us. When we start to quiet our mind and surroundings, we can start to feel those gut feelings coming to the surface, ultimately motivating us to make changes that better our life. Probably most surprising, doing nothing can even help us to be kinder. Being alone with our thoughts makes us long for a larger sense of purpose, prompting us to try challenging and meaningful activities that extend beyond our own lives. So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a waiting situation, sit quietly and see what you're able to accomplish.