Boredom: how to befriend it?
More than a year and a half spent in quarantine restrictions, most of us by now have built home offices right outside our bedrooms. We were engulfed by the unusual boredom-induced environment that excluded any physical contact with the external world. Binge-watching Netflix, endless scrolling, trying to come up with ideas how to keep your children entertained and same paths around the house conquered our daily lives. Amidst this routine, did you ever catch yourself sitting on the corner of the bed looking at the wall for no reason? Well, welcome to the club of boredom. Sometimes it can make you angry, anxious, or frustrated. However, there is some space for shedding a positive light on the concept of boredom.
The exploration of the concept dates back to the early 1900s. It has even achieved the label of a relatively understudied emotion. Boredom is a highly prevalent experience among all ages. It is more commonly associated with negative outcomes for individuals, organizations, and society and is usually described as a temporary unpleasant affective state, associated with a lack of stimulation and challenge by the task or environment. For instance, boredom is linked to tasks that do not serve any purpose towards individually significant objectives. Nevertheless, as it is an activity-led emotion, it disappears as soon as the boredom-inducing activity is abandoned. It may not be pleasant, but it serves as an important function in alerting us to instances when we are not able to successfully engage in a meaningful activity. Given its importance, we might as well befriend the state of boredom. Here are some tips and exercises for you to try out.
.Accept the boredom
Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Lench states that “boredom becomes a seeking state”. When we feel unsatisfied with the current state, we engage in searching for better options. As soon as the mind enters the “daydreaming” state, we come up with the most spontaneous and well-fit solutions. Psychologists recommend leaning into the boredom first with the purpose of igniting creativity. Remember, Isaac Newton was also daydreaming in his mother’s garden when he first thought about his system of gravitation at the sight of an apple falling from the apple tree.
.Regulate cognitive demands
Try making the task easier or harder until it is a good fit. Smaller and simple tasks could also be combined into more complex ones, and almost any task can be increased in difficulty by adding a time limit. It also works the other way around. To put it simply, we can make all the tasks less boring if we adjust the level of difficulty to our liking.
.Regulate cognitive resources
Think about increasing the options of what you bring to the table. Short-term physiological option entails caffeine (or you could always switch to a healthier cup of matcha!) to aid attention and reduce boredom, but bear in mind that it has its drawbacks. A better long-term solution could be sustained practice and skill development. With increasing expertise, you could master any challenging task in your way without a doubt.
.Regulate goal value
Adjusting activities and goals to better fit one another. Mentally reframing activities to be more meaningful. If you can see a purpose in your goals, you are on the right track.
Instead of tweaking the tasks, switch them completely. Of course, that depends on what you would like to feel: interest or enjoyment. Similar, yet very distinctive, interest demands cognitive resources to make sense of complex situations, (e.g. trying yoga for the first time) whereas enjoyment results from simple, familiar things that have been rewarding in the past (e.g. playing candy crush). However, seeking enjoyable activities instead of interesting ones may lead to more boredom in the long run.
When boredom suggests us that we need more interests, we can create a plan for setting up new experiences or practice patience with ourselves until we find an appropriate balance between novelty and familiarity. Take your time and be gentle with your state of boredom.
#1// Try something new
When boredom urges us towards something novel, embrace the urge. If you were thinking of changing the color of your walls, paint them today. You are creative!
#2// Connect with others
Sometimes being bored with your friend is better than being bored alone. Physical distancing does not imply social distancing, call your friend today and share dinner over Zoom.
#3// Go with the flow
Embrace the state of boredom, allow yourself to wander within your thoughts, take your time. Embrace and breathe in your surroundings. Life is beautiful.
#4// Avoid social media for a day
Endless scrolling is just as bad as eating junk food - try to minimize it and take a walk instead.
#5// Get nostalgic
Look over the pictures with your beloved ones, re-examine your values, come back to your senses.