Can Boredom be Therapeutic?
People tend to hate being alone with their thoughts. Studies show that you would probably rather choose to be shocked than be alone with your thoughts for as little as six minutes. Sorry for the pun, but this finding isn’t exactly shocking.
Think about how much we all check our smartphones every day. If you take a break from using your phone while, say, in line at the grocery store or riding public transportation, you’ll notice that nearly everyone else is on theirs.
In fact, since the invention of smartphones, we all spend much less time “being bored”. Does this mean that our lives are improving, are becoming more interesting and exciting? Or, maybe something is being lost from refusing to allow ourselves to be bored.
What if embracing boredom is key to accessing your deepest thoughts and even achieving and self-realization? What exactly does it mean to be bored?
What is Boredom?
You may have to think for a moment to come up with the last time you felt genuinely bored. There’s always a lot going on in today’s culture, and there’s a lot to like about this.
Technology can definitely give you something to focus your attention on during “boring” situations. Wherever you are, you can read the news, watch Netflix, or play a game (and even, heaven forbid, actually call someone).
However, when you’re feeling especially stressed, having all of this at your disposal won’t be enough to keep you from feeling bored. Ironically, having more distractions can make you more bored.
Stress cripples your ability to pay attention. When you consider that attention spans are already at an all-time low because of smartphones, you can understand how a person could be bored regardless of their environment.
Feeling bored comes from within. It’s not that your physical environment is “boring”. Boredom comes from a lack of perceived purpose in your life.
Boredom is caused by being in a state of high arousal (high energy) and not being able to find anything that feels important enough to create meaning in the present. In its worst form, boredom can take on a nihilistic apathy towards life, leaving you with no strong feelings.
For boredom to become beneficial, you need to appraise and adjust your attitude towards it. Instead of trying to ignore it or avoid it by doing something more exciting, you can use boredom to your advantage. Here’s how boredom can be therapeutic.
Therapeutic Benefits of Boredom
Being bored encourages you to daydream. It can help bring to surface thoughts and emotions you’ve been avoiding by keeping yourself too busy. When you find yourself feeling bored, think of it as your mind telling you it has something to say.
A bored mind keeps its finger on the button for more, more, more. But it’s not actually asking for more stimulation, more excitement. It’s asking for more self-reflection.
Feeling bored is your mind’s way of telling you it’s time for some self-reflection.
Your mind is trying to let you know that you haven’t actualized your full potential and that it’s bored with what you’re getting out of life.
If you let it, boredom can be an invitation to recreate yourself and improve your relationship with the world (both inner and outer). To accept it, all you need to do is be more mindful of it.
Boredom is not the same thing as mindfulness. Not even close. It can, however, act as a trigger for mindfulness.
Being bored is the result of a wandering mind. This makes it a convenient excuse to be more mindful of your thoughts. If you practice meditation, the idea of boredom is silly. Any situation can be an opportunity to be attentive to your breath and practice mindfulness.
Meditation is a great way to increase your capacity to stay in the moment rather than be captive to your thoughts. Most of us are in the habit of always either chasing or running from a feeling. Boredom can act as the catalyst to observe how we’re actually feeling right now rather than how we once were or are going to be.
Increased Altruism and Gratitude
The sense of disillusionment that accompanies boredom encourages you to reestablish a sense of purpose. One of the best ways to do so is to do something kind for others. Connection creates meaning. It gives you a shared mental representation of an event or idea.
When you connect with someone by acting altruistically, this relationship becomes a positive one abundant in meaning. Prosocial behavior, actions intended to benefit others, guide us to believe that life has meaning.
Gratitude works similarly. Feeling grateful for the generosity and kindness of others can help strengthen your sense of meaning just as acting pro-socially can. Being bored can be a great excuse to call someone you love and tell them how much they mean to you.
Boredom is beneficial in that it triggers us to search for meaning. Despite often being thought of as a mundane, passive emotion, boredom is much more. It’s not a single emotion but an expansive spectrum of emotions related to one’s desire for a meaningful life.
And it can be a strong motivator.
Feeling bored is like an alarm bell in your brain going off saying “your life has more meaning than you’re acting like it does!” It’s a soft scream for you to change your perception. In pursuing meaning, boredom can lead us to rediscover ourselves, be more mindful of each moment, and act with more kindness towards others.
Being alone with your thoughts is not an appealing experience. However, allowing yourself to feel bored on a regular basis can be therapeutic. It will help you understand why you’re bored and how to rediscover meaning in your life.
This process can be made much more accessible with the help of a therapist. Contact Louis-Laves Webb and Associates today to find out how we can assist you.