“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.” ~ Louis C.K.
Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …
Summer is finally here, that long-awaited time of year when school is out and vacation begins. However, if you have school-aged children like myself, you may agree that summer vacation can incite a level of stress – “how am I going to keep my kids from being, dare I say, bored”? Let’s face it, for the majority of working parents even with some holiday time, summertime is work as usual. If your kids are anything like mine, very few summer camps have truly captured their attention over time. I certainly can’t say that I blame them, nor do I want them to go right from their school job to another structured obligation for their summer.
Given that both of my children are now teenagers, childcare is not an issue and my days of worrying about camps are essentially over. Having said that, this is the third summer in a row that they will be attending a week-long cooking school in Vancouver. It is no real surprise that they have been so captivated by this camp as it combines many things they love into one and is still integrated into a family vacation. My son, who is heading into his final year of high school, is currently plagued by the desire to have a job like his friends, but without any great options.
So in some ways, summer vacation, although long awaited, can bring feelings of boredom to kids who are otherwise sufficiently occupied during the year. Just a couple of days after my son’s last exam, the “I’m bored” thought was rolling around in his head and daring to come off his tongue. Both my kids are fully aware that this is not something I want to hear.
As adults, I would say that we do not have as much of a time luxury to be bored. Unfortunately, our constantly connected and stimulating world may be setting us up for this notion, and even more so, in our younger generation and millennials.
What is boredom?
According to a Scientific American article Why boredom is anything but boring, boredom “seems to be a specific mental state that people find unpleasant – a lack of stimulation that leaves them craving relief, with a host of behavioural, medical and social consequences”. As it turns out, boredom is the subject of scientific investigation and has been since at least 1885. Some of the reasons that boredom is an interesting topic for inquiry is that it can have a significant impact on education, motivation, addictions and our emotional health.
In the Guardian article Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It’s the last privilege of a free mind, author Gayatri Devi looks at the positive quality of feeling bored:
“But boredom is not tragic. Properly understood, boredom helps us understand time, and ourselves. Unlike fun or work, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content. With ads and screens and handheld devices ubiquitous, we don’t get to have that experience that much anymore. We should teach the young people to feel comfortable with time.”
Why do some people feel bored?
Time is just one aspect of boredom. Having more time than we know how to fill it. However, some people have specific traits or moods that lead them to feeling activities or ‘empty space’ are dull and uninteresting. Although different sides of the same coin, they both point to a modern day mindset more than anything. Most of us go out of our way to avoid feeling bored by craving pleasure and stimulation, and abhor the idea of ‘wasting time’. However, feeling bored may have a deeper message for us to hear. In Devi’s Guardian article mentioned above, he accurately states:
“Don’t replace boredom with work or fun or habits. Don’t pull out a screen at every idle moment. Boredom is the last privilege of a free mind. The currency with which you barter with folks who will sell you their “habit,” “fun” or “work” is your clear right to practice judgment, discernment and taste. In other words, always trust when boredom speaks to you. Instead of avoiding it, heed its messages, because they’ll keep you true to yourself.”
How can I prevent feeling bored?
Devi’s above statement encourages us to give into the feeling, however unpleasant and tempting to repress. Personally, I don’t remember what boredom feels like. This is partly a function of my stage of life as well as my character. Not surprisingly, the sensation of boredom is more common at either end of the age spectrum.
One of the more valuable lessons I can offer my children is how to occupy themselves – be content with your own company and do not feel the need to engage in a constant state of busy (a lesson from my own upbringing that has certainly held true).
I myself do not feel the need for constant excitement in my life. As a result, I believe that my threshold for boredom is quite high, even if I wasn’t in the “always something to do” phase of life.
Two life practices that can prevent boredom include:
1) Practice gratitude: Gratitude offers so many benefits, just one being perspective. For instance, if your mind and body are fully intact, not only is that something to be truly grateful for, but also how can anything be truly boring? Sometimes it takes an illness or disability for us to take stock of the endless opportunities our minds and bodies afford us.
2) Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can very effectively diminish a sense of boredom from creeping up on you. It allows us to exist in a space of being without a lot of stimulating thoughts or images. The more we pay attention to everyday moments, the more we appreciate those moments for what they are.
This past week, I came upon this tweet from Sounds True that offer ways to tune into those moments as opposed to tuning out – a great way to prevent yourself from feeling bored.