woman looking bored

What is Boredom?

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Perhaps now more than ever, a lot of us are struggling with boredom. With so many things we are unable to do and places we can no longer go, and probably having ticked off the long list of things we wanted to do when lockdown began, boredom sets in. Often associated with laziness or a lack of imagination, drive or idea, being bored carries negative connotations that we try to avoid. Did anyone ever make the mistake of telling their parents they were bored? But what really is boredom and how can we better understand and utilise it?

Boredom:

 – the state of feeling bored.

Ennui:

 – a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

in Psychology

There are lots of different definitions of boredom, which it makes it difficult to fully understand. But for the most part, we can sort it into three categories.

  • First, when we are prevented from engaging in wanted activity.
  • Secondly, when we are forced into unwanted activity.
  • And thirdly, when we are simply unable to maintain our engagement in an activity.

Boring is the right thought at the wrong time.” – Jack Gardner

Boredom, whilst often seen as trivial, can be linked to possible psychological, social and educational problems. These lapses in attention also bear strong correlations with depression. Cynthia D. Fisher defines boredom as: ‘an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest and difficulty concentrating on the current activity.’ Somewhat similar to ennui, which sounds a bit nicer to say really.

IN PHILOSOPHY

Most philosophers characterise boredom as being the result of a lack of stimulation in one’s environment. The solutions are to be creative or to try something new, as familiar, repetitive actions can be what causes boredom. An absence of focus or stimulus that leaves people confronted with nothing; or for some philosophers, we are always bored and merely fill our time with things that distract us from this.

Schopenhauer, in his essay ‘On the Vanity of Existence’, wrote: “As things are, we take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something…or when engaged in purely intellectual activity… Whenever we are not involved in one or other of these things but directed back to existence itself we are overtaken by its worthless anti vanity and this is the sensation called boredom.” In other words, existence is meaningless, and boredom reminds us of this. We look for things to do to bring ourselves pleasure, to engage our minds and find something valuable. This existentialist idea might not resonate with everyone, but its amazing where your mind goes when have nothing to do.

Boredom can also derive from an absence of other human connections; in some languages, such as Zulu, boredom shares the same word as loneliness, isizungu.

Boredom: The desire for desires.” – Leo Tolstoy

Is boredom a bad thing?

Boredom can be linked to lethargy and depression, it can make us feel unmotivated, sluggish and generally run down, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its benefits. It can be a reminder to us that there are more important, or better things to do and encourage us to engage in more meaningful activities than just simply filling time. It helps us identify what really does and does not stimulate us and find alternatives that do.

Dr Sandi Mann claims that boredom can make us more creative as we find ways or things to help pass the time and that the skill of finding ways to amuse ourselves is an important skill, particularly for children, to learn.

However, when we look for quick fixes, we are left with a bigger gap at the end of it. When we finish or book or a film, we are still left with the same boredom. So, learning to be at peace with boredom, to be alone with your thoughts and emotions and needs is something we all need to learn to do. Boredom carries negative side affects, such as making us anxious or depressed. But it can also inspire motivation and creativity. It seems the secret lies in the balance.

You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” – Andy Warhol

Need some inspiration for things to do at home? Look no further, Darlings.

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