“I am never bored; to be bored is an insult to one’s self.” ― Jules Renard
Boredom. There’s a lot of it about right now, a little like fear. You may feel one or the other, or both. We’re all feeling lots of things right now and some days can be a little like being on an emotional rollercoaster.
Those not experiencing fear, seem to be experiencing at least a little of boredom. It’s not a lack of stimulation because ironically, the more distractions and external stimuli we seek, the more bored we get. We feel bored because, deep inside ourselves, we know we can give more. Boredom is the pain of unused potential; it’s a disconnection to everything we feel we can offer the world and vice versa. Yet boredom is actually a powerful ally, inviting you to rethink your relationship with the world. And that’s not a bad thing right now because the world desperately needs us to step up and behave very differently.
John Eastwood, director of the Boredom Lab at York University in Canada debunked the misconception that “only boring people get bored.” He found two distinct types of personality that suffer from boredom. The first have an impulsive mindset and are continually looking for new experiences. This is where I sit. The second kind has the opposite problem: the world is a fearful place. People in this category tend not to step outside their comfort zone. Their sensitivity to pain makes them withdraw. The problem is, if you’re in this camp, you don’t feel satisfied with being comfortable and so chronic boredom takes over.
The main issue of course, is that we live in a fast-paced, want-it-now, entertainment-based society. And the more entertained we are, the more we need to feel satisfied. The more we fill our lives with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels. We crave for more time. However, when we have free time, we don’t know what to do with it. Nothing seems exciting enough to deserve our valuable time and so often, we end up doing nothing and get bored.
If you’re like me, I find I switch off from my problems much more easily in company and it’s rare that I’m bored in company. So many people I know have a hard time having fun by themselves and it’s mostly why they embrace busyness — you don’t realise you’re bored when you are running from one place to another, doing this chore and that. Being means we don’t feel the boredom, but often it isn’t fun either.
Feeling bored usually means you lose focus. Research shows boredom can be responsible for increased risk of overeating, gambling, alcohol, and drug abuse, amongst others and those with high boredom-proneness are significantly more prone to suffer from anxiety and depression and procrastination.
Yet you can change this. It’s up to you to change your habit of feeling bored and turning into something positive.
Sakyong Mipham, the author of Turning the mind into an ally, identifies three kinds of boredom. The first type has an undercurrent of anxiety. We are not comfortable with ourselves or the situation we are facing. We are so used to being amused by external stimuli — fun means doing something with someone else. We believe that the antidote to boredom should be external. We need Netflix, a phone, company or an object to rescue us from boredom. The second type of boredom is rooted in fear. We are afraid of being alone with ourselves because we can’t relax our mind. Confronting ourselves in solitude forces us to pay attention to who we are. Loneliness is an honest mirror — it reflects both our good and wrong sides.
Sound familiar? I know it does to me. I used to hate spending time alone, being by myself, but over the past few years I’ve learned to enjoy it much more by learning from others. Here are some tips and techniques I’ve found which have helped. Give these a try if, over these past few months, you’ve found that your boredom is becoming an issue.
Turn your idle mind into your friend
When we feel bored, we crave for more entertainment and distractions. However, that will create more frustration and disappointment. To defeat boredom, you need less, not more, stimulation and novelty. Friedrich Nietzsche referred to boredom as the “unpleasant calm that precedes creative acts.” Embrace boredom as a positive force. It seems paradoxical but feeling bored now will make you less bored in the future — it’s a pause to make magic happen.
You are in charge
People with higher self-awareness and self-control are less prone to feeling bored. Meditation is a powerful tool to let your repetitive thought pattern free. Once you stop resisting boredom, it’s no longer threatening. We’ve all needed a pause. Enjoy it.
Boredom, like silence, is not just the absence of noise — it invites the presence of focus. Noise keeps you busy. Remove distractions and start listening. What is boredom trying to tell you?
Boredom feeds creativity
Your brain likes to escape from the feeling of boredom; instead of providing external stimulation, let it feed on internal elements. Mind wandering invites creativity; rather than trying to focus on external stimuli, let it find its own way shifting from one idea to another.
Avoid technology when you feel bored
Entertainment snacks will make you crave for more; rather than controlling your boredom, your need for distraction will never be satisfied. Technology is anything but a boredom cure. So, don’t turn to these in your hour of need, it won’t help much.
Recover the joy in performing mundane tasks
When we are bored, our mind rejects doing chores. Recovering the pleasure of performing small duties builds a sense of pride and achievement. Turn doing chores into a sort of meditative way of being and train your mind to realise that boredom is not about what you do, but how you do it. It’s actually not that difficult to do, it’s just remembering to switch this way of being on each time you approach the task in hand.