Have you ever been bored? You know, that place when you find yourself unsure what to do next, when there’s nothing in particular needing to be done, and you are ambivalent about what to do? Maybe you are waiting on something, feeling restless, or just not sure of what to do with your time? Maybe it’s a lack of interest in doing anything in particular. Perhaps you are feeling dissatisfied, unstimulated or anxious?
This is boredom. Boredom strikes all of us, but being able to deal with it, and make healthy choices in the face of it, is critical for our wellbeing.
What is Boredom?
Wikipedia defines boredom as ‘an emotional and occasionally psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in their surroundings, or feels that a day or time period is dull or tedious.’ Boredom is a condition characterized by perception of one’s environment as dull, tedious, and lacking in stimulation. This can result from a lack of aesthetic interests, in just how we perceive our surroundings. It is not depression or apathy, but a mental state that people find unpleasant.
Boredom may occur when our energy isn’t channeled into an outlet that provides meaning or fulfillment. There’s an aspect of needing mental arousal (take, for example, being in a waiting room or lecture, in which you can’t redirect your attention to a different activity), but it could be just overall disinterest. Perhaps it might be difficulty concentrating on a single task. Whatever the reason might be, we often are left with deep feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety, which in turn can evoke cravings for stimulation, or avoidance. We want to get away from our discomfort, find something exciting. When there’s nothing stimulating, we experience the baseline state of existence as uncomfortable, or ‘Bored’.
We have always had to deal with boredom, but in the present day and age we have even more ways of distracting ourselves from that uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps the experience of boredom arose with the appearance of mass-produced distractions: tabloids and newspapers, radio, TV, and now our phones and the internet.
Our phones, as well as other forms of technology, are great for helping us avoid this discomfort. Social media and voyeurism take the focus off of ourselves and on to something else that is novel. Texting and messaging provide a hit of stimulation, a release of dopamine, the chemical in the brain associated with pleasure and reward, and this helps us feel wanted, safe.
Though we might find it familiar, we are uncomfortable with it, and we often try to avoid boredom. We associate it with restlessness and emptiness. And, it’s blamed for things like addiction and teen violence. According to the Lion’s Roar, a publication of the Shambhala Institute, without stimulus or focus, the individual is confronted with nothingness, the meaninglessness of existence, and experiences existential anxiety. Thus why so many want to avoid it! Notice how we seek to eliminate this discomfort.
People want themselves, and their lives, to feel good. While it is important to understand what interests us, and to know what brings meaning and value, most of us don’t like to sit in the discomfort of boredom. Yet, we can learn from it.
Boredom really is a perception, and has to do fundamentally with an experience of time—such as experiencing the slowness of time—and problems of meaning. Further, it has been suggested that boredom has an evolutionary basis that encourages humans to seek out new challenges. It also may influence human learning and ingenuity.
How can we best view and deal with boredom? As with so many things, it starts with awareness. Instead of pushing away what is uncomfortable, perhaps look at it directly. Start with exploring why you feel bored – perhaps you feel like an activity isn’t for you, what would be more valuable? Perhaps you need to understand what is more interesting or meaningful to you (and excellent topic to work with a life coach on!).
If you are in a situation where you have little control (such as being in a waiting room or doing an uninspiring task), try viewing it through the lens of mindfulness to lessen the intensity of that bored feeling. You could do some breathwork or focus on your 5 senses. Be curious!
The blending of curiosity and mindfulness is an excellent recipe to learn from boredom. Another technique is to reframe your perspective, see the glass half full versus half empty. This is another way to find hidden meaning or tie into what is valuable to you. Making a choice based off of interests and values is a powerful way to diminish the negative effects of boredom.
And, note, if you always feel like you are in a boring, meaningless job or life, this would be another wonderful opportunity to work with a life coach. Want to more deeply explore what is stimulating, or interesting? Need support to move toward something more rewarding? Contact me to set up a discovery session.
Mindfulness and Boredom
The more we attend to these sensations we call boredom and observe them with interest, the more we can accept what previously felt boring. This creates a sense of ease in life. When we look at boredom with curiosity, we might learn something new about ourselves. Boredom can spark new ideas and propel new avenues of independence, creativity and self-reliance.
Thus, by attending to our boredom, through curiosity or a different perspective, we can approach life with less stress and more intentionality. And, as a result, feel more satisfied and better enjoy our time and our life.
If you want to experience how coaching can help you access greater life fulfillment, joy and satisfaction, and support you to make healthier choices, schedule a complimentary life discovery session now! I look forward to supporting you on your journey!
To your best health and well-being,