Why We Don’t Allow Boredom or Admit It
Episode #2 of the course Understanding and dealing with boredom by Sonia Chauhan
The funny thing is, most of our life is spent performing mundane tasks: Paying bills. Grocery shopping. Picking up around the house. Ironing clothes. Cooking food.
But we don’t like to talk about how we spend most of our time. We update our Facebook status only at the Coldplay concert. We go live while vacationing through Europe, not when we’re picking up the laundry. The boring bits are never on display.
But why am I talking about this? Because I want to know why boredom is tucked away so discreetly.
In today’s lesson, I want to talk about why boredom is avoided—as a topic, as a statement, and even as a feeling.
I. Boredom Makes You Look Guilty
A few hundred years ago, the girl next door was living a monotonous, basic life with almost no resources at her disposal to pass the time. Today, she has more opportunities within range than she can conceive.
She can create art, work at a corporate job, start a small business, write a novel, invest in social causes, become a travel blogger, etc. It’s all exciting stuff and more importantly, it’s all doable.
However, an inadvertent result of having countless possibilities is that you become obligated to “keep up with the excitement” all the time. Being bored feels a bit like being ungrateful for the exciting times we live in.
Boredom, in the modern world, is perceived as a shameful declaration of personal failure.
II. We Can’t Tolerate Boredom Anymore
I read this interesting study where scientists made people stay alone in a room for 15 minutes with nothing to do. The only mode of entertainment was to give electric shocks to themselves. Can you guess what happened?
They did it.
Forty percent of the people shocked themselves because they couldn’t sit down with their thoughts for 15 minutes.
Alarming, right? But consider this: How many of you can comfortably sit around doing nothing for five minutes? Actually, how many of you reach for your phone when you have a few minutes to spare?
Because we live in a society that’s always high on commotion, our capacity for tolerating boredom has drastically depleted.
III. We’re Scared of Global Mockery
People have always been on their best behavior in social settings. But if the past, you could lose it at a birthday party and be the laughing stock for all of the 20 people who attended. Now, your embarrassment can be broadcasted internationally.
This fear of global judgment has made us more secretive about the not-so-interesting parts of our lives. It has built a mindset that we’re only allowed to exhibit the most exciting part of our day, and pretend that we’re just as excited the rest of the time.
The Trouble with Avoiding Boredom
What happens when a natural process becomes an unglamorous, off-limits topic?
It gets blown out of proportion and starts haunting society in weird, unthinkable ways. Today, people who suffer from intense feelings of boredom avoid it even when it’s causing them significant pain.
What they’re doing is reaching out for the next distraction—stuffing themselves with empty calories and pursuing mindless but “fun-filled” activities so they can put it on Instagram.
But consider this: Not talking about an uncomfy feeling does not make it vanish.
While they are focused on making boredom go away, their approach to it is not only counterproductive but also destructive.
• Talk about your feelings with people close to you. Ask them when they experience boredom and how they deal with it. This opens a space where you can change your negative perspective about boredom and maybe even learn a new approach to it.
• Remind yourself again and again that boredom is a universal phenomenon. It’s not happening specifically to you, and it’s not caused by you. It’s something that just happens and is as natural as hunger or thirst.
• The more you indulge in distraction, the more easily bored you’ll be—simple as that.
In tomorrow’s lesson, I will take up boredom from the perspective of the human brain.
Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi
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