Why boredom is good for you
It is the day when your vacation begins. Your family members have settled in the car, and everyone is excited. Your six-year-old son watches with interest the changing scenes and the sounds outside. He enquires, ‘when will we reach our destination’ and slowly drifts to sleep. While you focus on the unending road ahead, your wife is chatting with your daughter. Suddenly, your six-year-old son wakes up and enquires again, ‘have we reached?’ You explain that it will take a few hours to reach your destination. After quietly watching the scenes outside for a few moments, he asks again, ‘when will we reach?’ He keeps repeating this question after every few moments. This is when you realise he is bored.
Merriam-Webster defines boredom as ‘being weary and restless through lack of interest’, e.g., the boredom of a long car trip. The first known use of boredom in the dictionary was in 1853. Merriam Webster uses the example of the boredom of a long car trip as mentioned in the example above in its definition. Tolstoy defined boredom as “a desire for desires”.
A bored individual has nothing to do or say. He may be experiencing a lack of stimulation from his surroundings or observing that the current period is dull or tedious, resulting in a craving for release from boredom. Boredom is stated to be an emotional and sometimes psychological state, where people are not interested in their surroundings or feel that the day or period is dull, tedious, or even unpleasant. According to a news channel, boredom “can be a dangerous and disruptive state of mind that damages your health”, yet research suggests that without boredom, you wouldn’t be able to achieve your creative feats. The French term for boredom is ennui, which has also been absorbed into the English language. Merriam-Webster also defines it as ‘a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction’. Without stimulus or focus, an individual is often confronted with nothingness, and anxiety is inherent in boredom. Yet, it is accepted as a condition to be endured in many circumstances, in passive ways, through sleep or even daydreaming.
Why do I get bored quickly?
- The feeling of being bored can be caused by many factors, including decreased mental stimulation or a lack of control over activities in your daily life. It may also be enhanced by additional factors like reduced attention span, self-control, and even a lack of self-esteem.
- Repetition of an activity for a very long time results in a loss of interest.
- An inability to try new approaches to the activity on hand due to fear of making a mistake.
- A poor perception of time.
- Lack of diversified recreational interests.
- Confusing and unclear instructions, especially in the workplace.
- Lack of adequate rest or nutrition. Chronic boredom may also point to deeper issues in mental health conditions, such as depression which may need treatment.
Can my recurring boredom be treated?
There is no specific medical treatment for boredom. However, the treatment can be summarised as – do something different. Once you accept this, there are plenty of activities to do if you’re experiencing boredom and wish to do something different. Instead of staring into the void or sitting around on your phone, getting lost in the news, or social media applications such as WhatsApp or Twitter, whenever you are bored, think of some fun things you can do at home or in your backyard. These activities require little to no money or extra materials from the marketplace. These unique activities will keep your brain stimulated and your body busy and may even turn out to be productive in the long run:
- You may want to consider trying some new hobbies or other new diversional activities apart from the routine activities that give rise to boredom.
- If you like the outdoors, head outside and check out unknown areas in your city on a walking tour. You may be surprised to discover new and unknown facets of your city.
- Join a club or sports or hobby group that organises activities and outings.
- Join organisations that support the old, infirm, or needy.
- Play a board game. Challenge the family to turn off the TV, laptops, and phones to play a board game. Introduce your children to classics like monopoly, snakes and ladders (a second-century BC Indian game) or its American equivalent, chutes and ladders, which you enjoyed playing as a child. Relive those childhood moments with your family.
- Try gardening (or add some indoor house plants). Learn from the Internet, their botanical names, characteristics, and uses. Share the gardening knowledge acquired with family and friends.
- Learn to play an instrument. It may be the perfect time to learn how to play your favourite tune on the piano or guitar, which you had abandoned after some lessons when you were a child.
- Deep dive into a subject that interests you — you can read books or articles on the topic and look for videos on YouTube that support your study.
- Plan your next getaway. Instead of daydreaming, you can plan the details of vacationing at your next getaway and look for bargains in plane tickets and hotel rooms. Continue planning your dream vacation whenever you are bored, and you will have a ready plan waiting to be executed when you are prepared to go on a vacation.
- Learn a new language. Thanks to the available apps, you can try to stretch your language skills and win friends when you travel next.
- Start a scrapbook. Relive your favourite vacations and childhood memories as you preserve them for posterity in a fun and personalised photo album.
- Learn how to do pottery, make jewellery, or paint a picture. You can even try a new hairstyle.
- Learn new software like Excel, Canva, or PowerPoint. These will improve your efficiency in the office. If you are already familiar, learn more about the uses of the software to help you in your tasks. There will never be a dull moment when you start learning.
- Try out a new recipe. Enjoy your creation with your family and friends.
- List your goals. Move away from the present state of boredom and look into the future. Take some time to reflect on where you want to be in a month, a year, five years, or beyond. Return to your plan whenever boredom hits and improve upon the programme and check your progress.
- Deep clean your house. Cleaning your home and kitchen of things you have stored and have been ignoring for a long time will boost your mood immediately. Clean a part of your house when you are bored, and slowly you will enjoy a clutter-free home.
While the above list of possible activities is only indicative and not exhaustive, you may add the activities you have always wanted to pursue.
How can I prevent boredom?
What are some simple tips you can try to prevent boredom?
- Keep a diary or record of the times in which you or your child have been feeling bored. In that diary, note the time, place, and activities that triggered your boredom. It will help you to avoid those circumstances in the future.
- Make routine tasks more interesting by adding some unique elements. For example, start timing the tasks on hand to see how fast you can do them. Even routines or mundane tasks become less tedious and more exciting when you challenge yourself.
- Repetitive tasks can be combined and done together.
- Break larger tasks into smaller ones and plan breaks or rewards at critical milestones.
- Create a list of activities that you and your child can do together whenever he/she feels bored.
Feeling bored at work
On a Monday morning, after you have rested and recouped your energy during the weekend, you feel you are all set to go back to work. You arrive in your office and turn on the computer at your seat. Everything seems normal, yet you feel bored soon after — have you wondered why? Here are some possible reasons and what you can do to eliminate the boredom arising out of them:
- You have no clear goal or interest, or your work doesn’t align with your interests. In this case, you may need to speak to your supervisor about your goals and understand how your job contributes to the company’s growth. You may also ask your boss to move you into a position matching your interest or qualifications, thus reducing idle time and preventing boredom. You can consider changing your job if your request is not accepted.
- You have minimal opportunity for growth and learning. Again, you may need to speak to your supervisor or training department and seek permission to attend either in-house or external programmes.
- If you feel tired, you need to review your nutrition intake or medical status to find the reasons for exhaustion. Also, check your sleep patterns to ensure that it is not the cause of exhaustion.
- If none of the above work, seek career guidance and move to a new job where your experience and interests match your job.
Why is boredom good for me?
Boredom may be good for you because feeling bored can push you to try new activities or explore unique hobbies and interests. It can also promote self-awareness and problem-solving. It may be a warning sign you shouldn’t overlook when you feel bored. It could mean you’re missing a purpose in life. Boredom is a symptom, not a disease, that can be largely eliminated if you follow the tips in this article.
Article by: RK Menon