Remember the last time you were bored? Could be that you don’t remember it, because I often can’t remember the feeling. Boredom seems to be a distant memory of a feeling I often felt as a child. These days we have our phones to bridge any moment I find myself waiting and I don’t really know what to do with myself. There are always plenty of apps that I find I can scroll through and get lost in – Instagram, Reddit, 9Gag – you literally have to stop yourself because the content will not stop for you. It is an unless feed with constant updates. And then there are games, quizzes, everything to keep you entertained. If you are looking to fill your time, it is literally in your hands. Boredom is a feeling we want to avoid. It leaves us feeling empty, and rather lost what do with ourselves. If we knew, we probably wouldn’t be bored. And in a day and age where you could always be working, learning, growing, studying, interacting with friends, gaming, working out, living your best life – it just seems like we did something wrong if we are bored. That we are not living our lives right.
Yet a while back, I stumbled on a theory that boredom is vital for various things in life. It shocked me a little, is it really boredom that we need? The unenjoyable feeling of restlessness? The presence of boredom has led to room and time for many of humanities creative gems (readSusan Sontag) – novels, movies, paintings – many of them stem from people being bored and having the time and openness to try out things they never have before. It makes you look for something new, something to pass the time and often it is a basis for many beautiful things we have created in our time on earth. Many discoveries in science, or books on philosophy have their roots in many hours spent wondering what to do in one’s life. When you think about it, it’s actually really logical. How will you have time to experiment, to think outside of the box if you are constantly thinking about something else and your mind is preoccupied with another stimulus? Would you pick up a pen and start to try writing poetry if you are looking at youtube videos? The first thing I do is consider what I haven’t done yet on my phone, before I get so bored I actually consider doing something completely random.
Not only does boredom build a fruitful ground for creativity, many scholars go to the extent to argue that boredom in fact, is essential for our everyday happiness. Being bored helps create a kind of openness to new things, like for example new ideas or new thoughts. It makes you present in your surroundings – aware of your feelings and thoughts, as well as what is going on around you. If you are constantly distracted, it is hard to touch base with your inner self and actually check in with what you want to achieve and where you think you stand. Kierkegaard argued that escaping the present by keeping ourselves busy is the greatest source of unhappiness for people. Boredom enforces mindfulness – a free meditation lesson so to say.
So what can you do with all this information? Next time you find yourself waiting – say at the doctor’s office or at the bus stop. Just let yourself wait. I’ve don’t it a couple of times now, and to be honest, I don’t even get bored. It’s so refreshing just to check in with myself and think – it feels like a novelty. Give it a go. After hearing all these benefits – don’t you want to get bored?