Boredom has been described as an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest and difficulty concentrating on the current activity or surroundings. It can be triggered by lack of stimuli, attention, or excitement. It can also be caused by lack of challenge in work or career and absence of ability to use creative skills. Boredom is also caused by the perception that one’s environment is dull, tedious, and lacking in stimulation. Boredom is a reactive state of emotion that interprets the condition of one’s environment as wearingly dull due to repetitive, non-existent or tedious stimuli. Boredom stems from a lack of interesting things to see, hear, or do (physically or intellectually) when not in the mood of “doing anything.”
There is an inherent anxiety in boredom; people will expend considerable effort to prevent or remedy it, yet in many circumstances, it is accepted as suffering to be endured. Common passive ways to escape boredom are to sleep or to think creative thoughts (daydream). Typical active solutions consist in an intentional activity of some sort, often something new, as familiarity and repetition lead to the tedious.
Boredom can also be a learned (or undeveloped) behavior. Children who were not encouraged to seek ways to keep active or trained to do so can experience “learned boredom” because they do not know how to avoid boredom. If you allow your children to sit and watch TV or computer games, they may find later in life that reality is boring. We have to take children outside and be interested in natural events and circumstances.
In school or a learning environment, a common cause of boredom is lack of understanding; for instance, if one is not following or connecting to the material in a class or lecture, it will usually seem boring. However, the opposite can also be true; something that is too easily understood, simple or transparent, can also be boring. Boredom is often inversely related to learning, and in school it may be a sign that a student is not challenged enough, or too challenged. An activity that is predictable to the students is likely to bore them.
Boredom is also a sign of an underdeveloped right brain. If a child lacks imagination or creativity, and is entirely passive when it comes to entertainment, boredom is inevitable. Giving them art supplies or a game will not help, they don’t know how to engage their right brain to be stimulated. Life has been called God’s “Bored Game”, where God gave us all we need to be happy, active and satisfied, and we pretend to be bored. It is said that man is the only animal that can be bored. We don’t know how to relax, to rest, to meditate, to contemplate. These are behaviors that have to be taught to the restless mind.
Boredom is the sure sign of an over active mind. When we are bored, it is our ego-mind that is crying out for entertainment. Our mind is constantly looking for stimulation. Our heart rarely requires stimulation. Boredom is also a sign that we have left our heart and are squarely in our mind. Boredom is a signal that we have to go back into our hearts and contemplate what we have. When we are bored, our minds convince us that everything is a waste of time. When we are in our heart, serenity tells us that nothing is a waste of time.
Emotions should evolve for our benefit – not to push us to self-destruction. Boredom oftentimes causes people to self-destructive behavior in order to find relief. This is the result of people looking to myopically at their lives and missing the bigger picture. When we look at a bigger picture, the fact that we may not be over stimulated at the moment is less aggravating. When we have a goal or purpose, we do not have to be so concerned that every minute be filled with hair-raising adventure.
There are 5 kinds of boredom:
o Indifference: People with indifferent boredom appear relaxed, calm, and withdrawn. They are so bored that they don’t even care that they are bored. These people go through life without much emotion or involvement, many times people are tempted to take their pulse to make sure they are alive.
o Apathy: This seems a lot like helplessness (and could contribute to depression): People who have this kind of ennui show little arousal and a lot of aversion. Many times these people isolate themselves and have no social interaction.
o Calibrating: People with calibrating boredom find that their thoughts wander and they want do something that differs from what they’re currently doing. But they’re not exactly sure what or how they might go about it. This state occurs when people perform repetitive tasks and want to reduce this boredom, but generally seem unsure of what to do
o Reactant: This boredom is the worst—people experiencing this tedium are highly aroused and have a lot of negative emotions. They’re also restless and aggressive. People experiencing reactant boredom really want to leave their dull situations and flee from the people they blame for it, including their teachers, bosses, or parents. They waste their time thinking of situations they’d rather be in that seem more valuable than their current circumstances.
o Searching: Those experiencing searching boredom experience negative feelings and a creeping, disagreeable restlessness. They look for ways out by focusing on more interesting activities. Sometimes this is diagnosed as ADHD or ADD, but can lead to socially inappropriate or even dangerous behavior.
Since boredom is generally caused by a mind that is flat lined…i.e. under stimulated, you have to find ways to balance out the mind. When we engage the right side of the brain, boredom is sure to dissipate. Here are some suggestions to overcome boredom.
• Turn off your electronics. Or at least limit your use of your smartphone and laptop. To chronically use computers shuts down a lot of your brain function that leads to boredom. The brain is like a muscle, it is happiest when it is used. Even when you meditate, you are using the brain to produce delta or theta brainwaves which are highly relaxing. So you actually are experiencing a high level of brain activity while feeling highly relaxed. This give your mind the highest level of enjoyment.
• Start writing everything with the opposite hand. Studies show that if you use your non-dominant hand to write, you turn on areas in the right side of the brain and the left/right sides of the brain starts to communicate with the other. You don’t have to make sense or write legibly; simply using the non-dominant hand will change the energy flow in your brain and relieve your boredom.
• Play games you don’t know. When you play a game that is new, or do something that is new, your mind is challenged and you avoid that sinking feeling that boredom is in control of your life. And besides, it will be fun and you may find that you are good at it.
• Go outside or move. Your brain has the remarkable ability to excrete enzymes and hormones that will make you feel awesome. The only way to create these “feel-good” brain chemicals is to break a sweat or move. Dance, run, power walk, or anything else that makes you breath deeply will break any feelings of boredom. Your body is always seeking new limits and achievements and exercise is a sure cure for lethargy and boredom.
• Write a letter or postcard. Even if you don’t want to use your non-dominant hand, using a form of communication that you haven’t used in a while (or ever) will use parts of the brain that probably are underutilized and this will break the boredom of an unutilized brain.
• Practice breathing. When we focus on whatever we are doing in a moment, there is no room for boredom. If we use different breathing patterns and focus on the length and depth of our breathing, we quickly forget what we are bored about. It gives the brain something to do. We can also use breathing techniques discussed on other programs to stimulate brain functions that create feelings of wellness and happiness.
• Discover new horizons: Steve Jobs once said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is the result of living with someone else’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s thinking drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” This quote speaks directly to the heart of boredom. Boredom is the self-limitation of people who are afraid to discover who they are.
• Make a list: If you are so bored you can’t think of anything to make a list of, make a list of things you think are boring. By making a list you are forcing your mind/brain to work that is self-stimulating. If you make a list of the things that bore you, it is not a long way from meditation.
• Meditation: If you are bored, it is an excellent time to meditate, mainly because your mind is already half-empty. When you are bored your mind isn’t thinking about much of anything other than the fact that you are bored. So what better time to sit quietly and allow the rest of your mind relax. Simply breathe deeply and focus on the spaces between your thoughts. This actually is activating your brain to generate delta and theta waves, which are deeply relaxing. Once you get comfortable with your boredom, you begin to develop your intuition and creativity centers which will naturally think of things for you to do.
• Volunteer: While it seems obvious that if you have enough time to be bored you have time to go help someone, sometimes we have to state the obvious. There are so many opportunities for people to help others it is hard to list them all. Homeless shelters, charities, retirement homes, hospice, hospitals and medical facilities all need volunteer help. Nothing will break boredom and give you a sense of accomplishment faster than helping someone else.
With all that is going on in the world and things to do and see, it is amazing that
we allow ourselves to be bored. When (or if) you get bored, use these suggestions to reopen the magnificence of the life we have been so graciously granted.