We commonly see boredom as that state of mind that we must cast away by all means. We must be stimulated at all times, right? Well, not really. It’s OK to be bored.
It’s very likely that you —reading this post while keeping three other tabs open in your browser and listening to some music in the background— are trying to escape boredom. Yet boredom, quiet, and stillness are the fertile soil that breeds creativity and change. It frees you to relax, find yourself and connect with your inner voice and emotions. In moderation, a little moment with yourself can bring you to the next step in your life.
As we go into our first, second, maybe even third week of this pandemic —depending on where you are in the world— the challenges you face in this new reality might be taking a toll on you. Having to come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to go back to work for a while or even visit your grandparents may be just too much.
Most of us have already developed a system; Some mechanism to deal with the helplessness of not being in control of the situation and distracting ourselves or keeping busy.
Sitting down and listening to what’s in our head sounds crazy and counterproductive. We have so many thoughts and fears engraved in our minds, and going down that rabbit hole is the last thing we want to do. But, it might be what we need right now.
Boredom =\= Laziness
First of all, it’s important to point out that boredom is not equal to laziness. Laziness implies an active avoidance of engagement of any activity of benefit.
To be lazy, you can’t be doing anything productive. Boredom, however, focuses more on not finding anything productive or stimulating to engage in at all. This behavior then opens us to be more focused on introspection and mindful behavior.
Stillness and quiet time can be great tools to bring your mind to the place it needs to be to breed creativity.
Being in a creative environment and having a creative mindset can be the catalysts to obtain exceptional results to the table, but the former is easy to control. The latter, however, can be very challenging for most of us.
What is There to Gain?
Studies have shown that quiet time and stillness, and by extension boredom, can be the essential ingredients to cook up that creative mindset.
Letting your mind listen to the room’s subtle sounds, feel the sensations that otherwise would be overshadowed by more potent stimuli can bring the brain to the proper state it needs.
Moreover, reducing the amount of stimulation the brain receives also frees it to focus on whatever you need it to focus on.1
And this last part is crucial not only for creativity but also to have mental hygiene.
Most people tend to bottle up emotions and hangups on a day-to-day basis. We find that keeping our emotions in check is beneficial for our social and interpersonal behavior at work or within society.
This behavior is perfectly normal, but we forget to check on the bottle’s state before it explodes in front of the wrong person.
Modern society and its expectations leave us with very little time to sit down and open the bottle to sort things out. This situation is very detrimental to our mental health and our relationship with ourselves and others.
So it would be best if you made time to sit down by yourself, relax and exercise some emotional hygiene.
One of the reasons you might find it challenging to create this stillness moment is that you have been conditioned to receive stimulus and gratification swiftly daily.
Instant gratification has become the latest drug in town. It hinders our ability to properly enjoy the moments that bring joy and meaning to our lives. It takes away the patience needed to process and appreciate a warm touch on a cold day or a simple bath in the evening. We want it all, and we want it now.
That attitude has become so prevalent that many people find it challenging to sit still with their thoughts without grabbing the phone.
Some people don’t feel like they are producing anything if they don’t have something going on. If they are not busy with their hands, if they don’t go to bed exhausted and mentally drained, they don’t move forward.
I understand that mentality. Yet, we are the ones who need that blank time the most.
Letting go of that expectation of perfection, the idea that we can stay on that level because others out there do is a fallacy. We perceive it that way because we can only see what others allow us to see.
We have to let ourselves be OK with quiet time.
Bored at Home, in Moderation
There are some things to be wary about when embracing boredom. We must be careful not to fall victim to bad habits that feed our inability to deal with our boredom properly.
Some studies show that boredom can be linked to emotional eating, anxiety, and depression tendencies. We might be escaping from something we don’t want to deal with when we keep ourselves busy and turn up that music.
We might not want to listen to that voice in our heads. And in that state, it is effortless to resort to very unhealthy mechanisms to “deal with boredom.” Compulsive snacking, smoking, drinking, even violence. The mind is very good at finding ways to crank up the background noise.2
The keyword is moderation. Allow yourself to explore your thoughts and enjoy quiet time with yourself in moderation. Be very observant of your behavior and thought patterns.
Whenever you feel like your mind is diverting into negative thoughts, don’t disengage completely. Channel a cheerful inner voice from a family member or a friend. If you find this difficult, then stand up and change environments. Change rooms if that is your only option. And don’t forget to be present and forgiving.3
Bored During Quarantine
It is unavoidable to think that in times like these, it is imperative to stay engaged and do everything you can to remain productive and engaged so that you make something out of the unavoidable reality of a lockdown.
For most of you who have been separated from your job, school, and daily routine, feeling the need to return to normal or keep some normalcy by fighting boredom and helpless inactivity is very draining.
However, please allow yourself to embrace some moments of quiet and stillness.
Turn off the music. Close the computer. Leave your phone behind and sit down with yourself. Let your mind go places. Breathe intentionally, observe and daydream about stuff, and be surprised about the things you will learn about yourself.
Finally, the most crucial takeaway we want you to get is this. There is no need to fill up every second of your day with activities and background noise.
Silence and a cup of tea can allow you to listen to what’s happening inside your head. You don’t have to see yourself as a prisoner of your circumstances. Literally in your house given your country’s reality right now but especially not in your mind on the constant pursuit of normalcy.
So sit down, relax, savor the moment and let your brain go places. And yes, that means putting down your phone.
See you in the next post!
- Bench, S.W.; Lench, H.C. On the Function of Boredom. Behav. Sci. 2013, 3, 459-472.
- Crockett AC, Myhre SK, Rokke PD (2015) Boredom proneness and emotion regulation predict emotional eating, Boredom proneness and emotion regulation predict emotional eating. J Health Psychology
- Sommers J, Vodanovich SJ. Boredom proneness: Its relationship to psychological- and physical-health symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2000;56:149–155.