Embracing boredom sounds oxymoronic, but it’s not once you delve a little deeper. In the age of ever-dwindling attention spans and social media algorithms rigged to deliver that dopamine hit quicker than ever, it’s easy to become overstimulated. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings said in 2017 that his competitor was sleep. Yes, your sleep.
So, with sleep fighting CEOs in mind, boredom moves from something to be avoided at all costs to something you need to start practising actively. In the book Yawn: Adventures in Boredom, author Mary Mann found studies that showed that boredom actually helped creativity instead of hindering it, functioning as a necessary part of the creative process.
But even with this knowledge, it’s likely that you’ll avoid boredom at all costs. Studies have been held where people were given a painful, shocking mechanism to use on themselves. When asked to sit still in a room for 15 minutes with only their own thoughts, 67% of men and 25% of women decided to shock themselves voluntarily rather than go through it (the gender disparity needs discussing, but that’s another article).
Being distracted from being bored
Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior social scientist at the University of Melbourne, says that “sitting and being alone with your thoughts can be perceived by some as indulgent, time-wasting, and unproductive.” But she notes that sometimes what makes us feel like we’re doing something often isn’t useful at all. “Scrolling on the phone makes people feel productive and stops them spending too much time in their own head – which, for some, is anxiety-inducing.”
This anxiety isn’t helped by a society that lives and breathes the “get and up and F’ing work” mantra espoused by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Molly Mae. In this arena, boredom is akin to a moral failure, where exhaustion is worn as a badge of honour, burnout be damned.
How does embracing boredom help?
So why should you embrace boredom? Boredom helps in many ways. Aside from boosting creativity, boredom can help you make breakthroughs. In fact, recognising the root of your boredom can help you realise that you need change. It would be best if you viewed boredom as brain feedback instead of something that requires the quick fix of your phone. And you can use that feedback as a catalyst for change. Boredom often points to a deeper malaise. If you’re bored at the gym, it’s likely a sign that your workout is no longer challenging you. Bored at work, probably the same issue.
Aside from change, embracing boredom also can work as room for self-reflection. This alone can be the reason why so many reject boredom. But if you change your viewpoint towards it, you can use these small quiet moments to maybe think about why you want to run away from boredom.
Maybe you’ve cultivated a persona as someone constantly busy and fear that slowing down means losing yourself?’ It’s big and, at first, scary. But embracing boredom can actually be a way to enjoy the present, figure out what changes you need to make, and simply avoid the cheap thrill of your phone.