Boredom appears to be the classic new-age problem. We lay in our big bed streaming a movie on our laptops while scrolling social media on our phone and realise that none of this is working to keep us entertained. But what if, instead of changing apps or trying a new movie, we embrace the feeling of being bored? Here’s the lowdown on how boredom is secretly good for you.
What is boredom?
Boredom can be classified as a lack of engaging stimuli. In simple terms, it’s the feeling that nothing - either internal (thoughts and feelings) or external (environment) - is able to entertain you. It’s the feeling of scrolling Facebook and finding all the posts look the same or listening to the same song over and over again. Even though you are looking for ways to engage you can’t find a satisfying activity.
Dr. Amanda Robins (MSW, PhD. psychotherapist) has been an academic, artist and now specialises in supporting young minds. Here’s her explanation of what it means to be bored.
“Boredom is not the same thing as doing nothing. We can be bored surrounded by technology and the opportunity to be stimulated - or intensely engaged when there is nothing there. Boredom is a judgement that we apply to experience - and it comes with the implication that we are uninvolved or disengaged.
Boredom for some people is really an inability to be alone – some of us need occupation or distraction to avoid the experience of “sitting with” our own feelings. Meditation, mindfulness and learning to appreciate the beauty all around us can help us learn to navigate and feel more comfortable with periods of inactivity.”
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The reason we feel as though being bored is bad is because we are so used to being surrounded by information and instant entertainment at our fingertips. Alex Mason from Web Profits has more;
“Boredom is often seen as the stifling enemy of the active mind. We live in a world that's so full of things going on, at a greater and greater speed every day, more data, more information, more facts, more fiction, being constantly engaged from more sources than ever before.
But then, there's that little part of the world in which it all slows down. Finding yourself in a space where your consciousness is no longer bombarded and assaulted by information that you didn't necessarily ask for, and instead gives you the chance to do that most wonderful thing that human beings all crave: to search for your own entertainment.”
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If you believe in the idea that everything happens for a reason then the mere existence of boredom must have some purpose. So what are some benefits to boredom?
1- Improves your mental wellbeing
As Arwen Bardsley, from Evenstar Wellbeing, explains boredom gives us the opportunity to snap out of life’s distractions and engage with our own mind.
“It’s so much better to stand ‘bored’ on the train and listen to your thoughts, be present in your body, be in the moment and consciously taking in the information available through all of your senses, feel gratitude for the smallest things (like the fact that the train was on time today) than it is to check Facebook again and spiral into the constant ‘compare and despair’ cycle of social media. If you never check in with yourself in moments of boredom, how do you really know anything about yourself and the true state of your wellbeing?”
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2- Increases productivity
Boredom is often a result of doing the same things on repeat and thus finding they no longer stimulate you. A reality TV binge sesh can only work for so long. When you’re feeling bored take a look at your to-do list and see if a meaningful, productive task takes your fancy. It might be the incentive you need to go mattress shopping which means you can thank boredom for your great night’s sleep.
3- Makes you a better person
One study found that the search for a meaningful activity to break your boredom often lead people to undertake more charitable activities. They engaged in volunteer opportunities and signed up to donate blood to give themselves a sense of purpose again.
4- Improves creativity
When we become bored a typical solution is not going to cut it. The longer we exist in this state the more creative our brain has to be come to find its way out. Dopamine - aka the reward chemical - is released in your brain for all sorts of reasons. In particular, when we do something we enjoy or try a new activity. We are more likely to be creative while we are bored and this often leads to trying new things and the positive vibes that result.
Next time you find yourself 3 weeks deep in your Facebook newsfeed searching for something, anything to entertain you try another method. Shut off the tech, let the boredom seep in and see if you don’t come out the other end with a benefit or two.