You don’t like to be bored. Correction: You despise being bored. You feel restless, impatient, and dissatisfied when you’re bored, so you actively avoid it. It’s how Candy Crush got so big. And it’s why the kids these days are becoming more addicted to screens.
In reality though, what we don’t like about being bored isn’t that we have nothing to do, but that we’re forced to become aware of the reality of simply being. In other words, we’d rather feel anything than feel nothing at all (or, in this case, the weight of our own existence).
Because being still is scary. It brings up anxieties, it feels unproductive, and our self-esteem takes a hit.
The solution is simple. Some people – and even some cultures – are good at it. The Italians have a saying “Il Dolce Far Niente“. We should take a page from these happily bored people, to learn to appreciate the “sweetness of doing nothing“.
Let yourself daydream
Ever feel stuck on a problem, only for the solution to spontaneously come to you as you’re mindlessly staring out the window on your commute? Some people refer to these ‘shower thoughts’. Side note: the subreddit ‘showerthoughts’ has over 25 million followers. It’s a thing.
Our brains have a default mode network that’s more active when we’re doing nothing. This network contributes to our ability to remember things, think about the future, and daydream.
This is where the real magic happens.
Being mentally passive allows our brains to create innovative connections between unrelated elements in our lives. Not only do we become more creative problem solvers, but finding new solutions to our problems increases our overall confidence and feelings of self-worth. The result? We become even better problem solvers!
Practical tip: Section off 5 minutes every day to daydream. Set a timer on your phone, and stare out the window. That’s it.
Get to know yourself
Humans have a negativity bias. This means we tend to focus on and remember negative information more than positive information.
When we’re not distracted, our purest identities are brought into focus, and this bias goes into overdrive. We start remembering our shortcomings, failures, and where we could have acted differently.
A recipe for anxiety. It’s no wonder we run away from boredom.
But what if we instead stop reacting to our feelings, and simply allow them to happen? Being mindful in our boredom means facing our true selves courageously and without any judgment. The result? Greater clarity on our personal goals, more self-forgiveness, and a refreshed motivation to tackle our priorities and focus on what really matters.
Practical Tip: Keep a pocket-sized ‘Bored Journal’. If bored, write down one thing you’re grateful for; or one thing you did which you enjoyed that day; or one thing that’s been nagging you. One thing on paper is one less thing on your mind.
Treat your brain
As a species, we’ve never been smarter. We’ve also never been more stressed. Our attention has never been more divided. And our brains have never been more tired.
In our digital lives, our brains are constantly stimulated – assessing different risks and seeking different rewards. Just think of working all day on your laptop, only to kick back and relax by scrolling through your phone, only to then be joined by your partner to watch TV – yet another screen.
Too much of this, and we experience something called cognitive dulling. That’s when our brains get so tired that we can’t concentrate, our brains feel slower, and our emotions go haywire. In other words, we burn out.
Practical tip: change is hard, so start easy. Set your social media accounts to auto-lock after 15mins of daily use. Then put your phone down.