The power of boredom
When was the last time you got bored? Not in a “Mad Men is getting repetitive so I’ll just scroll through Facebook while I wait for something interesting to happen” or “I can’t believe my train is delayed so I guess I’ll put on a random podcast and play Wordle in the meantime” kind of way. No. I’m asking when was the last time you were bored in the “laying down on the bed, staring at the ceiling, maybe go for a walk, maybe doodle, staring out the window, laying down on the floor” kind of way?
Let’s be honest. Multitasking gets far too much undeserved credit. Meanwhile, the other side of the spectrum does not actually live up to its bad reputation. The truth is that we have become scared of feeling bored because we are expected to measure our value in the form of productivity and our ability to stay in the “grinder mindset”. Caffeine addictions are seen as glamorous. The same goes for sleepless nights. Everybody wants to be Don Draper, Harvey Spencer and Sophia Amoruso… All of this can, of course, be seen as a symptom of capitalism, but contributing to the sense of guilt and desperation we feel in a moment of boredom is technological innovation.
The lines between work life and home life have become blurred. Thanks to technology, you’re never more than an email or push notification away from the office. Taking it one step further, many of us even find ourselves living in our offices as the work-from-home set-up outlived the pandemic. Who could ever complain about boredom when there is always an email left unread in the inbox or an unfinished project resting less than three footsteps away from the bed?
The lack of seperation between business and personal have already taken a toll on our downtime, and for the little time we do have left, we like to turn to social media. After all, our 2022 social lives exist as much online as offline. The social media feed in itself is a never-ending cycle of impressions – everything from the fear of missing out to wedding announcements and influencers sharing must-haves that make you sick with jealousy. Then, there is the news cycle which is full of devastating stories from around the globe that can be broadcasted in HD and sent to you as neat newsletters and alerts around the clock.
This infinite access means there is a certain pressure to keep up with it all. It is both overwhelming and exhausting to take in all this information and expect your brain to keep up. With the world at our fingertips, it is no wonder we feel overstimulated. According to Dr. Saltz, associate professor of Psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, one of the best ways to fight overstimulation is to limit the number of interactions you make in a day. And what’s the easiest way to do that? You guessed it. Time to limit our dependency on our devices!
Let’s not forget that in a similar nature to meditation, boredom offers the kind of white space which can lead to clarity. Ask yourself this: Is it possible to truly check in with your feelings when you’re always interrupted by emails or the urge to check Twitter? Our devices are designed to snatch our attention, so finding a suitable distraction has truly never been easier, but if we give ourselves the chance to get bored, we simultaneously allow time for reflection and appreciation.
Sometimes, it means your brain gets the space it needs for an idea to fully take form. Sometimes, it means your mind can wander back to lost memories, like that breezy summer of 98’. Sometimes, it gives you the sudden inspiration-boost you need to finally get around to clearing out your closet. Setting specific end goals is not so important, but rather, allowing your mind to take a break from overstimulation and greet each reward that follows.