"I don't know what to do!"
"There's nothing interesting going on."
"I'm sooooo bored!"
I'd hazard a guess that the majority of you, every so often, find yourselves faced with boredom. It's a pretty common feeling, and especially in this day and age, in a society where, for better or worse, our technology means that we're nearly always somehow "connected" to the outside world—and almost always have something close at hand that we can use as a distraction from monotony, whether that's playing video games, texting friends, or listening to music. (Needless to say, there are also countless activities that don't require these types of devices at all—but, as a general rule, technology does seem to make us much more used to constant stimulation... which means that, when we don't have that stimulation for whatever reason, or it simply loses its appeal, we're often less prepared to handle the tedium that can ensue than people a few generations earlier might have been.)
Boredom can be a rather disagreeable sensation. There's a reason the Internet is full of various collections of "boredom busters"; lists of ideas for activities to counteract, squelch, and/or distract ourselves from the feeling (including some right here on NMG—you can check out one such discussion by clicking here!). But lately I've been questioning whether it's really such a bad thing after all—and so today, instead of recommending anti-boredom methods, I thought I would write about this topic from a different angle: The Value of Boredom.
If you're rolling your eyes at the concept that boredom can be anything but a bother and a waste of time, that's certainly understandable! But read on; if nothing else, if you're bored right now, maybe this blog post will prove to be something of interest to you. ;)
- Accomplish Things
When someone in my family makes a complaint such as "I don't have anything fun to do" (or variants on one of the other phrases I opened this blog post with), my mother is wont to respond with something along the lines of, "Well, the kitchen could use some mopping!"
Of course, that's probably not exactly what you have in mind when you're complaining about things being boring—it certainly isn't for me! Yet, notwithstanding the groans that invariably arise at my mother's response, she does have a point.
Oftentimes, boredom can be as much of a sign of procrasination as of anything else. One way or another, many of us have pretty busy lives. There's usually something we could be doing, whether schoolwork, practicing music, drawing, or—yes—cleaning the house. That doesn't mean it's always something we want to do, of course—but sometimes, these are exactly the things that we should be doing. The dictionary definition of "procrastination" is "the action of delaying or postponing something". But if there's nothing else of particular interest to you, sometimes that can be the best counter to procrastination. Wash the dishes, write that essay, clean your room. I've found that, at least for me, sometimes boredom is exactly what I need to give me that extra shove of motivation to just get something done—if I'm bored anyway, I might as well do something productive while I'm at it! Besides, even the less-fun tasks, like mopping the kitchen floor (unless you enjoy mopping more than I do, that is, which is entirely possible!), can serve to detract from tedium.
- Be Creative!
There's nothing like a little boredom to get the creative juices flowing. (Well, sometimes.) This can take many forms—anything from developing complex story plots to finding inspiration for a painting to just coming up with inventive ways to stop being bored!
I know for a fact that a great many of you are very imaginative—but even the greatest of imaginations sometimes run dry. Boredom certainly is no cure-all for writer's block, but I do know that some of my favorite ideas for things have occurred while I'm doing nothing in particular; waiting at the bus stop, lying in bed, pacing the house because the power went out or my book is missing. Sometimes these brainwaves spring into being fully formed, other times they take shape more gradually. No, I can't guarantee that you'll have an idea for a bestselling novel if you're just bored often enough. But I will say that, generally speaking, our minds can do amazing things when they're relatively unoccupied by other concerns. :-) And, when we don't have anything specific drawing our attention, we're likely to start noticing more other things in the world around us, which has the double benefit of being both a good source of inspiration *and* just a good thing for our overall wellbeing.
Which brings me to...
- Take a Breather
Let's be real: Life can get busy. And stressful. And sometimes overwhelming.
That's the reason that I wrote an entire blog post last year all about Taking a Break; it's something that I believe is both very important and, unfortunately, something that often ends up getting neglected in our more activity-oriented society. In a way, I see boredom as a sort of built-in break from the craziness of life. What with school, extracurriculars, family, athletics, friends the arts, and so on and so forth, it's easy to get swept up in everything going on. That's a good thing in some ways, since it means that we can get lots of things done and have versatile interests that all have room in our lives! But if our switch is always turned to "on", then that internal battery can run down.
So is it really such a bad thing to find yourself having a break once in a while? As I've gotten busier, instead of trying to figure out a way to get rid of the boredom when it sets in, I now find myself doing my best to appreciate it. There's something relaxing about not having anything to focus on, not doing anything in particular. Mindfulness is good for your health, both physical and mental.
- Grow Internally
Just as emptying your mind out can be refreshing and healthy every so often, so too can boredom be a great opening to look inwards. That's another area of our lives and ourselves that, too often, we seem to overlook. But sometimes, finding yourself with nothing to actively do is the opportunity to turn your attention away from the external stimuli we all interact with on a daily basis (from homework to your phone) and try to tune into yourself. Many people enjoy meditatiation, which can be a wonderful, revitalizing and soothing technique. While I personally don't usually actually meditate, per se, I do like to take these chances to spend a little time just reconnecting with myself, without forcing anything. When there aren't other distractions around, it's the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your internal self... your spirituality, your emotionality... all the parts of you that might get pushed to the wayside in the perpetual motion of the day-to-day.
- Preempt Future Boredom!
I can't blame you if this sounds a bit counterintuitive, but at least in my case, it's very true. If I'm constantly trying to prevent myself from feeling bored, then when an occasion inevitably rolls around that it's simply unavoidable, it's hard to cope with. For some people, this can be the hardest thing about boredom—we're not used to it, and we don't know how to handle the absence of activity.
But, as I've gotten to the point where I no longer try to steer clear of boredom at all costs to the extent that I used to, I've found that I simply don't notice myself being bored that often anymore—and, when I am bored, it doesn't bother me as much. Admittedly, it's hard to say exactly how the cause-correlation effect works here; it may be that letting myself be bored has made me more immune to it, but it also may be that I stopped minding boredom so much independently and, as a result, no longer tried to avoid it so much. That said, I do believe that there's at least some connection there. Like with most other things, hands-on experience is the best way to develop skills for dealing with something. So why should boredom be any different in this?
If boredom can become an accepted part of life instead of something you dread, there's a good chance your mind will begin to adjust to the feeling, and you'll be better equipped to handle it next time—or, perhaps, even to not become so "bored" in the first place. :)
There are lots of great methods out there to counteract your boredom, such as reading, writing, drawing, painting, calling a friend, learning a new skill, going for a walk, playing a game of solitaire, etc., and innumerable others as well—including, of course, my personal favorite, that being turning to NMG. ;) But in the end, I also believe it's important to be able to live with a little monotony from time to time, and to make the best of and even appreciate that state of being.
What do you think? Do you often or ever find yourself faced with boredom? If/when you do, how do you feel about it? Do you agree with me, disagree, or feel neutral? Have you ever noticed (or not noticed) any of the things I discussed in this blog post being true in your own life? What techniques do you use to cope with boredom?
As always, please share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the comment section below!