Thought Starters, Sept 17, 2020

BOREDOM

A boring tool was a kind of drill that worked slowly and repetitively. In the 1700’s the term “bore,” meaning “to be tiresome,” became a popular slang term.

SYNONYMS. weariness, ennui, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest, lack of concern, apathy, uninterestedness, unconcern, languor, sluggishness, accidie, malaise, world-weariness.

The opposite of boredom is peace. Boredom can be stressful in that a person is resisting the now, thereby creating inner tension. If boredom is resistance to how we experience the present, then the opposite of being bored is non-resistance to the now, which is peace.

Opposite of the state of feeling or being bored:

awe

ambitious

amusement

animation

challenge

cheer

competitive

concern

contentment

curious

diversion

empathic

encouragement

energy

entertainment

enthusiasm

excitement

exhilaration

fascination

feeling

gladness

happiness

hopefulness

incitement

inspiration

interest

invigoration

joy

liveliness

motivation

pleasure

provocation

reverence

refreshment

serenity

stimulation

sympathy

tastiness

variety

vigor

 

Reducing boredom requires that individuals solve the problem that produced it: not having sufficient activities or mindsets that are both meaningful and optimally challenging.

To prevent boredom and keep it away, we need to find solutions that provide lasting meaning and challenge.

1. Remind yourself why you’re doing this

     People generally prefer doing something to doing nothing. As staying home is the most effective way to prevent the further transmission of the coronavirus, it is meaningful to socially isolate. However, it may not always feel that way.

     Like all emotions, boredom is about whatever you’re thinking at the moment. That means staying at home will only feel meaningful when we’re actively thinking about the greater good it does. For instance, in studies, when students were prompted to reflect on why their schoolwork mattered to them personally, researchers found that their interest in learning increased.

In other words, reframing our activity changes how we feel about it.

Creating simple reminders, such as a note on the fridge, or a morning meditation, can help us keep the big picture in view: Staying home is a sacrifice we’re actively making for the good of others.

2. Find a rhythm

     Routines structure our days, and provide a sense of coherence that bolsters our meaning in life. People’s lives feel more meaningful in moments when they’re engaged in daily routines.

     We lose those routines when we give up going to work, or volunteer activities, or when we are laid off. Even retirees or stay-at-home parents are disrupted by closures to cities, restaurants and schools. This loss of routine can foster feelings of boredom.

By creating new routines, people can restore a sense of meaning that buffers them from boredom.

 

3. Go with the flow

     Figuring out what to do when faced by long days unstructured by work or school can be hard. A recent study of people in quarantine in Italy found that boredom was the second most common issue, after loss of freedom.

     One thing that makes such situations hard is that it can be tricky to find activities that are just challenging enough to keep one occupied, without being too demanding.   This situation can leave people bored and frustrated.

     It helps to keep in mind that what counts as too challenging, or not challenging enough, will shift throughout the day. Don’t force yourself to keep at it if you need a break.

4. Try something new

     Boredom urges many of us towards the novel. Embrace that urge, judiciously. If you have the energy, try a new recipe, experiment with home repairs.

     Doing new things not only relieves boredom, it helps acquire new skills and knowledge that may relieve boredom in the long run. For instance, we feel a surge of interest when we read an interesting novel or go through complex experiences, but only if we have the capacity to understand them.

     Evidence shows that embracing new experiences can help us lead not only a happy or meaningful life, but a psychologically richer one.

5. Make room for guilty pleasures

     It’s okay to binge on television, if that’s all you can handle at the moment.

We sometimes paint ourselves into a box where our most meaningful hobbies are also mentally taxing or effortful. For instance, digging into a classic Russian novel may be meaningful, but it doesn’t necessarily come easily.

     Similarly, well-intentioned suggestions for how to cope at home, such as hosting a virtual wine-and-design night, may be simply too exhausting to be pleasurable at a time when many of us are already struggling.

     Give yourself permission to enjoy your guilty pleasures. If need be, reframe those moments as much-needed mental refreshment, nourishing and recharging you for a later date.

6. Connect with others

     Finding easy meaningful alternatives – bite-sized options that don’t take much effort, but that we find deeply rewarding – can be a challenge.

     Luckily one good option is open to us all: connecting with others, whether virtually or in-person.

     Looking at old photos or reminiscing with a friend are simple meaningful actions most of us can take even when we’re not feeling our best.

     One does not need a reason to call up a friend. Our best socializing is the kind that happens casually, in the unstructured time between scheduled activities.

     Create room for that virtually as well. Next time you’re pouring a glass of wine or watering the plants, call up a friend while you do it. Make dinner together. We don’t have to be bored when we’re all in this together.

Thought Starters For Sharing:

  1. When have you experienced boredom?
  2. What situations seem to create a feeling of boredom?
  3. What are the emotions that you associate with being bored?
  4. What do you say to yourself when you are bored?
  5. What strategies have worked well for you in coping with boredom?
  6. What patterns in your life keep you from being bored?
  7. What tips or thoughts in the material above seem helpful?

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.  Amen

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