Dealing with Boredom: Part III
Episode #8 of the course Understanding and dealing with boredom by Sonia Chauhan
Much of what happens around us can’t be controlled. It’s the same with boredom—an erratic, indifferent phenomenon that weighs on us even when everything’s going well. While we can’t control things happening around us, we can, however, choose how we respond to them.
One of the biggest objections to boredom is our craving for amusement, to the point where we live in a culture of distraction. Our attention spans are harnessed as a commodity. To make it worse, corporates are always trying to up the game with entertainment technology, gaming experiences, virtual reality, etc. As a result, terms like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and YOLO (You Only Live Once) have become stakeholders in our lifestyle choices.
Psychologist Sandi Mann (author of The Upside of Downtime) rightly concludes, “The more entertained we are, the more entertainment we need to feel satisfied.”
Nevertheless, every amusement reaches a flat line. Eventually, boredom sets in.
By now, you know the evolutionary purpose of boredom—eternal concentration is impossible for the human brain.
It would, then, be in our best interests to stop the pointless war that we’re constantly waging against boredom and change the way we view it—as a natural phenomenon.
Responding to Boredom, Properly
When you lose track of the stimuli offered by your surroundings, you are in the process of creating stimuli from within. This usually leads to a spontaneous and unexplained action, e.g., you automatically start doodling in history class. What’s happening is that your mind has stopped paying attention to your teacher and begun wandering, making sense of myriad memories and instances as you make squiggly bunnies on your notes.
Boredom is an opportunity for your brain to initiate organic thoughts unique to your personality. Start identifying it this way.
On a cold, damp afternoon, you’re lying on your bed, feeling particularly dull, and you start worrying about your weight, then you start imagining how you’d cope if your mom dies, or worse, you start revisiting shameful memories. Many times, our response to boredom is delving into pessimism, which feeds the belief that it’s actually boredom that’s the undesirable experience. The fact is, it’s our negative response to boredom that’s making the experience undesirable.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is respond positively to boredom.
Practice. Create space in your schedule where you deliberately get bored. Think of it as a time to connect with your soul. This will be difficult, but everything worthwhile is. Start with a small measure and increase the doses of boredom slowly.
Pick passive activities. Choose a low stimuli activity. It’s easier when your body is focused on a motion, and your mind can breathe without the anxiety of idle hands or pumped-up limbs. For example, draw, do a puzzle, or go hiking. Just make sure you do them alone.
Try instrumental music. This one really helped me. Every now and then, I put on Nuvole Bianche while I sit for my daily rumination. Nature sounds, like a waterfall or chirping birds, also help. For those of you who think instrumental music is boring, well, all the more reason to indulge.
Temper the negative talk. Be mindful if your brain takes a negative turn. Unchecked mental chatter can be extremely painful and brings out our worst instincts. The trick is to keep bringing your thoughts back to the present right when you start judging or worrying. Practice this often.
Make a list of passive activities (I mentioned a few above) that you can do by yourself. You don’t have to complete them right now. Write down a few things for now. You can keep adding things to the list as you think of more. Stick it on your fridge or in your journal, someplace you visit often.
The next time that you’re feeling dull, this list will nudge you to respond to the moment in a more wholesome way.
Here are a few things on my list:
• Finish the Zentangle Heart (Zentangle is a fun style of doodling where you make repetitive patterns to create art).
• Bake my own bread from scratch.
• Copy favorite poems into my journal of poems.
Robert Paul Smith, in his brilliant book, How to Do Nothing with Nobody All by Yourself, remarks, “I understand some people get worried about kids who spend a lot of time all alone, by themselves … but I worry about something else even more, about kids who don’t know how to spend any time all alone, by themselves. It’s something you’re going to be doing a whole lot of, no matter what, for the rest of your lives. And I think it’s a good thing to do; you get to know yourself, and I think that’s the most important thing in the whole world.”
That’s all for now.
Thank you for subscribing to this course. I hope the information therein does for you what it did for me.
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
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