Don’t Bypass Boredom. It Can Be Good For Your Well-being

Don’t Bypass Boredom. It Can Be Good For Your Well-being

via Thrive Global by Remy Blumenfeld

Have you been feeling blue, blah, bored? Dreary, dull, or down? Flat, fatigued, in a funk? Inactive, indifferent, inert?  I could work through the whole alphabet with all the words for the state many of us have recently been finding ourselves.  And none of them sound like what we believe we should be feeling.

From a young age, we are encouraged to be creative and curious, inspired and inventive, resourceful, and resilient. Only boring people are ever bored, I was taught. Being bored means you are incurious, lazy even. “Perhaps the world’s second-worst crime is boredom,” proclaimed the philosopher Jean Baudrillard, “The first is being a bore.” If like me, you’ve been beating yourself up for occasionally surrendering to feelings of lethargy, tedium, and dullness, I would like to offer up a different way of seeing things.

Churning in neutral|

Being bored is like being in neutral in a car.  It won’t propel you forwards or back, and it won’t even keep you stationary. In neutral, the pedal won’t route power to the wheels, but you’ll still be able to turn direction with the steering wheel.

The automotive expert Aaron Widmar advises:  “the neutral gear helps the automatic transmission gears transition more smoothly from being in the drive position to the opposite reverse position. And in the dire situation where your car’s brakes aren’t working, putting your car in neutral can help it gradually slow down (unless you’re on a hill).”

Sometimes, putting a car in neutral is the best way to avoid an accident. It’s certainly the only way to start a manual car.

The terrifying void of nothingness

So, why are we mostly afraid of boredom? To extend the neutral-gear metaphor, perhaps we’re terrified that boredom and nothingness will allow us to roll backwards into despondency, depression, and despair. In the current climate in which bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones, all too often I have found myself reaching for my kindle, my i-phone, or the remote, rather than facing the terrifying void of nothingness.

In a 2014 study by the University of Virginia, participants were given a choice between doing nothing and electric shock. Despite having stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity when faced with sitting in silence 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict electric shock on themselves.  Perhaps, like Saul Bellow, these students believed that “boredom is the conviction that you can’t change…the shriek of unused capacities.”

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