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An ode to boredom

The feeling of boredom is quite boring. There is no joy in the moment; no excitement, no enthusiasm, no impulse. Just a vast expanse of nothingness that makes you exclaim “I’m so bored” repeatedly. It is not like you have run out of things to do all of a sudden. You live two lives after all, one real and the other virtual, yet boredom can turn you into a living carcass. Come to think of it, it is quite ironical to feel bored in this digital age, where you are surrounded by things that are designed to make you feel otherwise, but you feel bored anyway as if your life runs on autopilot.

This feeling of boredom could be transitory—like when your phone runs out of charge, leaving you no choice but to stare outside your cab window the entire journey. Or it could last for an eternity—at least that’s how it feels­ like when you are bored to death at a relative’s wedding or while sitting through a never-ending lecture on quantum physics. Either way, you lose your ability to focus as everything starts appearing lifeless and slow. The reasons behind your long yawns could be aplenty, but for everyone, time appears to move slow when they feel bored. Strange, but true. Einstein could have explained this conundrum quite easily, but there too, boredom could have found you—or even the great physician for that matter.

Unlike various emotions humans can feel or choose not to, boredom is something no one can escape from. It is a moment robbed of the colours of life and replaced with shades of grey. The great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer took his perception of boredom to a new direction by calling it the enemy of human happiness. But the truth is, boredom is anything but an enemy or an unwanted emotion. For starters, it’s a mirror that can show you what you are missing in your life. Boredom is also a spiritual experience that reiterates the need to find joy in your own company—which is all you have when you are bored. As Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher says, “boredom is the beginning of every authentic act… Without boredom, (there is) no creativity.”

In short, boredom is the new excitement. It gives an opportunity to add something new and valuable to your daily grind. A 2019 study, published on Academy of Management shows boredom as an experience that can fuel productivity and creativity in people. But you can’t reap the fruit of boredom if you are unaware of its existence. Instead of spending hours on social media, going through stories of random people, let your imagination fly and your dreams soar when you feel bored.

She says when you sit idle, you use knowledge, experience, and memories in a single moment that could lead you to your eureka moment.


Dr Sandi Mann, a professor of psychology at the University of Central Lancashire has seen the brighter side of boredom earlier than others. In an interview, Mann explains about the veil of smartphones and internet that conceal the benefits of boredom from us: “We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems.”

It doesn’t mean that people who spend less time on smartphones don’t get bored easily. The world is filled with distractions, enough to separate you from yourself. In her book, The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, Mann writes, “When we are busy, occupied and fulfilled, we rarely stop to ponder on our abilities, attitudes, and qualities; it is only when we have the luxury of being bored that we have time for such introspection. Of course, this is assuming such self-reflection is a good thing and leads us to become better people, with better ideas, qualities, and attitudes.” Electronic distractions and responsibilities keep our minds occupied. This is why boredom is important, as it gives your mind time to relax, unwind, and get back to work at its full potential.

History has it that countless people have used boredom to their advantage, to achieve their goals and fulfil their responsibilities. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the most successful people of the modern age often make time to just sit and let their minds wander. Jerome Singer, who has studied Positive-Constructive Daydreaming for years, says mind-wandering helps you access memories and come up with ideas using your unconscious mind. Amy Fries, the author of Daydreams at Work: Wake up your creative powers, drew a similar conclusion from her research. She says when you sit idle, you use knowledge, experience, and memories in a single moment that could lead you to your eureka moment.

The most effective way to deal with boredom is by embracing it—not by eating potato chips the whole day or playing online games to kill time, or worse, by resorting to drugs or alcohol. In such a case, you must seek help, as your boredom has taken an ugly turn. For the most part, however, the feeling of boredom remains what it is, just a boring experience. But it is this lifeless experience that has the potential to bring you your moment of glory. The vault of boredom is deep like an ocean. Tap into this vault, and you will realise, the feeling of boredom is, actually, quite fascinating.

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