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?
17 comments on Boredom
Sometimes boredom can inspire one to create.
There were a couple of articles I read that said that. Maybe I equate boredom with depression too much.
I equate boredom with depression as well. Although I have a phobia of flying, I also find it extremely boring. I would love to get up and jump up and down, pitching a fit on flights from Atlanta to Seattle. Good thing I have control over how many times a year I want to take that trip since it is for pleasure, not work. Can boredom be good? Hmmm…I believe that it’s good to embrace perceived failures because they get your mind to working on other ways to do things. I’m not sure I buy into the theory that boredom can lead the mind to creativity. I’ve tried and when I’m bored, I really don’t find anything creative or interesting.
Boredom does not lead me to creativity either. I wish it did, but it just brings me down.
I very seldom get bored but when I do I can’t get engaged in anything. Not even reading or word puzzles which I love to do normally. I also don’t care for TV very much so I can’t use that to pass time. When I’m bored, I try to get a few chores done and then after trying to engage unsuccessfully in several things, I usually resort to mindlessly surfing the internet or playing a mindless game on my iPad to pass the time. Thankfully my boredom doesn’t last more than half a day to a day. For me, boredom is distinctly different from depression being that it doesn’t have the element of hopelessness, loneliness, darkness or despair.
True that depression is darker. I’m pretty much on target with what you do when I’m bored, except for games on my computer. I use to practically live full time in Second Life, but not games. Thankfully
Personally I don’t think boredom is good for anything much. They say “idle hands are the devils playthings”, meaning you can get into trouble when you are bored and uninspired. Perhaps for us bipolar-ites it may even bring on mania or depression?
Interesting blog 🙂
I think there is a huge difference between boredom and giving oneself space to do nothing without guilt, or meditate for example, or other non-busy things. For example when I write for long periods of time, I rarely get bored – because I am inspired?
Excellent points all.
I had an aunt who was a nun, who used to say, “Only boring people get bored.” I used to think SHE was the most boring of all of my family members, though (she had a voice like a female Ben Stein), until one Halloween, she wore a pregnant belly UNDER her habit. Apparently, Aunt Francis had a rich inner life (and sense of humor) that we were long unaware of! 🙂 But I hope that story wasn’t too boring to share.
No. Definitely not boring. You made me laugh. A fun loving nun is great.
I hate hate hate boredom. Makes me depressed. There is no way there can be a positive side to it. (In my humble, non-expert opiion, of course!)
Lots of things make me bored…..football is up there….it’s very high on the list! 😉 Also car races.
Fatigue makes me bored!
I try to lift myself up by watching freaky Netflix shows on my Kindle (there are so many of them!) which has been working more for me lately to get me out of that bored rut…reading, as much as I love it, takes too much energy when I’m fatigued and bored!
Thanks for sharing your experience with this topic; your post wasn’t boring, LOL!!!!!!!!
I agree. Boredom does not motivate me to do anything of major importance. I’d guess books are the best way for me to overcome it.
This was an interesting post. I don’t really get bored. I tend to avoid situations where I *might* get bored, like watching a NASCAR race (I am sooo with ya on that!) or a soccer game. Even when I do get in those situations, I can usually easily find a distraction — I am really good about bringing my Kindle everywhere and keeping it charged. If I feel bored at home, I just find something to do…I don’t know if that makes sense, but I don’t let myself dwell in what might be called boredom because my brain would easily turn it into something else (something negative). So, I tend to nip boredom in the bud very quickly.
A sidenote, I am soooo glad you are back, dearest Bradley. You were much missed by the blogosphere while you were gone. <3
My most boring times are actually when I’m writing. I love to write but I get bored not having co-workers. To keep me from being too isolated, I do most of my writing at coffee shops. It helps.
Thank you for your kind words. It’s good to be back
Yeah, I’m not much for being bored, either. I don’t find that it’s good for my mood at all.
You aren’t alone on the racing thing. I live on the NC/SC border, so I’m around a lot of racing fans. We’ve always been the odd ones out in this town, in my family, since my husband and I both find it crazy boring!
I’m glad someone agrees with me regarding car racing. It’s practically the law down there that you have to like it.