Get bored! Or better still, try a Solo.
When was the last time you were bored? Not just for a few seconds or minutes, but for a long, long time.
With so many restrictions, it seems the risk of boredom is at an all-time high. We’re constantly trying to find new ways to stop us from being bored - just look at TikTok or YouTube to find lots of ideas to keep yourself entertained. And yes, these things can be fun but trust us, good things can also happen when you get bored.
What!? But boredom isn’t fun or useful. It’s the enemy, right? To embrace boredom means you are lazy. It means you are wasting your time. That’s why we have many things to help us to defeat it – there’s every kind of possible distraction: social media, computer games, Netflix. Even reading this! But taking a break from overloading your brain with constant information and distractions can help you to relax and reduce stress. You may even learn more about yourself.
So, ignore the distractions. Do absolutely nothing. Try a solo.
What is a solo?
A solo is an exercise that enables you to have time for yourself. To be on your own. To do nothing other than being with your thoughts and taking the time to reflect.
The solo can be a transformative part of an Outward Bound course, its effects empowering.
We think a solo is best when you’re out in nature. But you can do a solo anywhere. You can recreate a solo for yourself at home – you just need access to a secluded and comfortable place. Be alone and away from all distractions. Remember, the key to doing a solo is you must be on your own.
Make sure you have no technology, no music, no games, no books, and no phone – absolutely nothing that will distract you. At most, you can have a pen and a blank notebook to help you capture your thoughts.
This is up to you, but we suggest you try an hour. At Outward Bound, our solos can take anything from 15 minutes to as long as 24 hours.
The purpose of the solo can be many things and is often different for each person. The key is to give yourself time to start to get bored – and what we really mean here is to allow yourself to be completely free of all distractions. When your mind is empty and not filled with lots of interference, you start to look inwardly. You begin to reflect and have time with just your thoughts. Letting yourself 'feel bored' will naturally help – and it's especially beneficial to anyone who usually finds it difficult to be with their own thoughts.
But seriously, why?
Our instructors are asked this a lot! What is the point of sitting on a hill or in the woods for 10 hours on your own with nothing to do? It's to enable you to see where your brain will take you.
And we often find that it’s those who question the purpose that gets the most out of the experience. So, if it doesn’t sound like something you can do, this might surprise you!
What will happen?
We're not going to lie. Solos are a little like marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. Either way, it will push you outside your comfort zone and that’s where we grow. A solo may be a different type of challenge to what you are used to, but nonetheless, it is still a challenge. And learning to take time for yourself with no distractions is great prep for developing all kinds of self-control skills.
You may discover other benefits of freeing your mind from distractions too. Reflection may be the key aim here, but when you allow your mind to wander and daydream this can also help to spark creativity and problem-solving. In the absence of external stimulation, we use our imagination and think in different ways.
Above all, you will feel proud after you’ve completed your solo. Being completely alone with nothing at all to do for an hour is an achievement. It’s often the first time that people have ever done anything like this before and this simple exercise can be eye opening.
What should I reflect on?
Only you can answer this one. Your mind may wander all over the place if left long enough.
During a solo at Outward Bound, participants often reflect on how they were at the start of an Outward Bound course and then what they have learnt since – their strengths and weaknesses, their aims and hopes for the rest of the course.
In your solo at home, you may think about how you are coping with all this uncertainty. Or you may think about the future and what you’d like to do when the restrictions are lifted. But you might just think about what you’re having for tea, and that’s fine too - you are giving your brain a well-earned break.
Remove the distractions
With the way the world is right now, there never seems to be time to properly switch off. You may feel you always need to be at the end of Zoom or WhatsApp, or you need to keep up with what’s going on. We tell ourselves that we don't have time to do nothing and if we are at a loose end, we find something to distract us.
This weekend or half-term break, we challenge you to NOT find something to do. Try spending some of your time 'getting bored' and not filling every moment with distractions. You may discover a bit more about yourself that you didn't know before.
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