Boredom. We abhor it as if it were the flu. Or try to swat it away like we may a house fly. An unwelcome guest. A burden….But is it?
To be in a semi-inactive mental state while at the same time physically or emotionally restless describes somewhat how it feels to be bored. In today’s phone/internet/social media connected times, one would think boredom was an infrequent guest. But too much sensory input often poses as much (if not more) of a risk as too little input.
Taken objectively, boredom is simply a message. While there are many actual types of boredom (see my older post entitled “Boredom: Is Resistance Futile”), all types of boredom are reaching out to tap you on the shoulder to say “Hey, LISTEN!”
Boredom also has a fascinating history, as this wonderful Smithsonian article “The History Of Boredom” explains.
There are real benefits to our thinking and state of mind if we pay attention to boredom. The answer is not to solve boredom by removing it, but to just listen to what the boredom is trying to tell us. Perhaps we need a new goal, or a creative outlet, or an outside inspiration from nature or from someone else’s own life experiences. What we definitely don’t need (and take notice, parents)….is someone to tell us exactly how to solve our boredom. The solutions must come from within.
Too often students today are over-scheduled with homework and extra-curricular activities. A significant price is paid by the loss of pure downtime for the brain, the time needed to recharge and allow the brain to intuitively engage in creative thought. And not just creative thought, but also the process of making meaning of one’s life. The deep work of philosophy in the search for life’s meaning.
Of course too much downtime can be equally negative, and a significant risk factor in destructive behaviors and potentially resulting apathy. We forget that everything in life can be interesting and important to the the person who finds it so. We are made richer as a peoples by fully welcoming in our community both diversity of thought and diversity of interests.
So the answer to boredom may be a simple one. One we’ve been inadvertently denying many young children and students. The idea of autonomy. Everyone wants (and needs) the ability to freely follow their own interests. As a parent who homeschooled my child from kindergarten to college, I had the privilege of seeing first-hand how autonomy in even the youngest of children can unleash the positive power of boredom into the growth of a wide range of passions and interests, and ultimately happiness and life-long learning.
Simplifying life through the process of embracing boredom in the proper doses sure has a sneaky way of enriching life. So as a first step, consider undergoing a digital detox after reading my older post entitled “Disconnect To Reconnect” and be sure to welcome boredom into your life.