Why Being Bored is a Good Thing

When we think of boredom, that dull, unstimulated, uncreative state of mind, we probably don’t long for it. Human beings, by nature, dislike having nothing to do. We are constantly imagining, creating and working. Even if we aren’t necessarily on the move per se, most Canadians spend at least 3-4 hours online every day – shopping, using social media, emailing, banking and catching up on news and current events. We’re wired in, constantly trying to stimulate our minds or at the very least, entertain it. But how much do you really get out of spending hours on end scrolling through your Instagram feed, mindlessly liking photos? Boredom is not the enemy; I would argue that it is essential to be bored to give your brain space to imagine, create and inspire yourself and others. Being scared of boredom is being afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself time to think and challenge your routine.

Our first instinct when we’re bored is probably to grab our phones and run through our social media apps or review the latest new events. Our intention is to find something entertaining, interesting and maybe even scandalous. When you have access to a world of information at your disposal, it’s not hard to avoid feeling completely disinterested. But this only brings us temporary satisfaction, and when we can’t find the excitement in our own lives we turn to others and ask ourselves, “Why can’t I be that happy? Why can’t I be as talented, fun or pretty as them?” And how sad is it that? Boredom is limiting our capacity to be present, to truly engage with our loved ones and our ability to create a life for ourselves that we’re impressed with.

In this day and age, psychologists argue that boredom is essential for the development of creative and brilliant ideas. Boredom is not just something to steer clear from but something to actively seek out. In a bored state of mind, our brain craves stimulation. We begin to seek out new and exciting things to do. There are, however, times when we’re bored and we feel a prolonged state of tiredness and lack of energy. This is the bad kind of boredom and probably won’t do much for our creativity. However, boredom doesn’t always mean you’re tired and unmotivated, you’re just lacking the ideas. British philosopher Bertrand Russell spoke on fructifying boredom, the kind that can lead to productivity. Russell once said “a generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation…in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” It sounds a little dramatic but if you start to think of all the fun memories, essay ideas and creative projects that were a product of boredom, you may start to realize what Russell was referring to.

Those of us that have the privilege to be rich enough to choose our path in life may suffer from a fear of being bored, which in turn disables our ability to just slow down and think. And if you think that having more money will lead to greater excitement, this isn’t always the case. "For the super-rich, houses, yachts, cars and planes are like new toys that they play with for five minutes and then lose interest in," said psychoanalyst Manfred Kets de Vries. You’ll always want the next best thing. So if you think that you’ll be able to buy your way out of boredom, this probably won’t work. This isn’t to say that money can’t assist in the process of relieving your dull state of mind, it just shouldn’t be the only factor.

Boredom isn’t the enemy. When we become friends with boredom, we unleash our inner potential and become more adventurous, ambitious and imaginative. Perhaps boredom can be a little interesting after all.

 

References:

“Report: 46% of Canadians Admit to Using a Phone in the Washroom.” Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), https://cira.ca/resources/corporate/factbook/canadas-internet-factbook-2019.

Jasonfry. “Wealth Fatigue Syndrome.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 19 Nov. 2007, https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/BL-WHB-274?responsive=y.