When I was a kid I suffered from boredom all the time. The laundromat was hell on earth. I’m the youngest of seven kids, so you can imagine that a large part of my mom’s life, and therefore mine, was spent at the laundromat. The hours seemed excruciatingly long. The thrill of watching clothes swirl in the spin dry cycle only lasts about forty-five seconds.
And is there anything worse as a kid than long car trips? My older brother and I would play some simple games that were bought at Cracker Barrel, and they were entertaining for about thirty minutes. Then we’d get right back into boredom. Looking back, it felt like we spent years in the back seat of the car.
How do you define boredom? We all know when we’re bored, but it’s hard to define because the best description of boredom is boredom. It’s like trying to define a color. To make matters more difficult, boredom is subjective. While you may be excited watching the latest avant-garde German film, I can assure you that I’ll likely be bored to tears.
An article on the Australian Broadcast Corporation website touts Professor Peter Toohey, of the University of Calgary, as the world’s leading authority on boredom. Toohey defines boredom as,
a powerful and unrelieved sense of emptiness and isolation in which an individual feels a persistent lack of interest in and connection to his circumstances’. In its extreme form, it is closely akin to depression and can drive people to despair. Or Facebook.
Is boredom bad for you? Yes. Is boredom good for you? A small number of articles say yes, it can be good. I’m a wee bit skeptical.
Is Boredom Bad For You?
There are many articles out there that claim boredom is bad for you. Google ‘til your hearts content. Claims about the dangers of boredom are that It can lead to depression, suicide, drugs and alcohol, personal injury on the job, and anxiety. For those with mental illness, you can add paranoia or delusions, and hallucinations in the mix.
Is Boredom Good For You?
What I found interesting, however, is a December 2011 article in Psychology Today. The author, F. Diane Barth, says boredom can be a good thing. In the article she states,
…an important concept that many of us, in our hectic, goal-oriented lives, fail to recognize: boredom, that time when we feel uninterested or unengaged in anything we’re doing and can’t come up with anything to make it better, can be a time of genuine creative growth. Most of us see boredom as a sign of depression, which indeed it can be, so we worry when we feel it ourselves or see it in our children or other loved ones.
In other words, rather than trying to stave the feelings off with more activity, a far better response to this ‘symptom’ would be to make a little space for it. Once we’ve opened ourselves to the idea that boredom can be the initial step for creative productivity, it becomes pretty quickly apparent when those unengaged, uninterested moments are really the mind’s bringing a blank canvas to your psychological easel, ready for you to begin painting, and when it is a sign of depression.
Personally, I ain’t buying it. Maybe it’s because I have bipolar disorder, but I don’t ever see boredom as an opportunity for anything. Is this how the general population views it? My reaction to boredom depends on how long it is. Overall, it’s a one-way ticket to depression. It’s hard to fight it off, because it’s hard to distinguish between the two.
I’m going to wrap up this boring article by boring you more with a list of the top five things that lead me to boredom:
Flying. I have no fear of flying; it’s just incredibly boring. I don’t think I felt this way until I began traveling as part of a job I had. Waiting for a flight to start boarding, standing around the luggage carousel, hoping your bag is the next to drop down the chute, and the flights themselves sometimes made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, just to add a bit of entertainment to the trip.
Television. I’ll admit, I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead, however that’s about it. Numerous studies have shown that the average person watches five hours of television each day. Five hours??? I don’t know how they can stand it. Even when I was a kid, while watching afternoon reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch, I had to be doing something else. Usually I laid on the floor in front of the tube drawing.
Football. I’ve tried to like football. I’ve tried very hard, but I just don’t get it. People refer to how exciting all the action is. Action? All I see when I watch are a group of guys in a circle talking, then they get all lined up and stare at the opposing team, and then the action starts – for about 20 seconds! After that, the process begins all over again. I’m sorry, but I don’t see much action in that.
Movies with Sub-titles. This shocks friends of mine who like to tell me about all the great films I’m missing. I love to read, however that’s not what I go to the movies for. I want to pay attention to what’s going on. The action, the gestures, the inflections. I can’t do any of that if I’m looking at the bottom of the screen reading sub-titles that change too fast. This may fall under the category of irritating, rather than boring, but it doesn’t take long before I give up on the whole thing and tune out and become bored.
Car races. How can I be from North Carolina and not enjoy stock car racing? Because it’s boring! How long is the average race? How long do people sit and watch cars drive around and around in a circle? The only thing not boring about race cars are when there are accidents, but I have no desire to see someone possibly kill themselves to save me from boredom.
My list can go on and on. I’m sure, if I thought long enough, that there’s more. that I can come up with that are equally or more boring than the five I listed. Trying to come up with more would bore me and I’d rather do something fun, like watching an episode of The Walking Dead.
Do you think boredom has a positive side? What are the things that bore you?