Harnessing the Power of Boredom

I watch the sun sweat gold on my window pane. I want to be amazed. I want to climb inside every cliché on the topic of amazement: Treasure every moment; stop and smell the roses; live like there’s no tomorrow. But I am bored.

Boredom comes in waves like nausea. If it were an animal, boredom would be a savage wolf, stalking the substance of my life, assessing the quality of its meat. Boredom begs to be fed.

It’s the human condition. Bored to death, we say, when describing the terrible state in which we find ourselves weary and impatient. I blame boredom for bad decisions, for altered relationships, for abandoned projects. A bored shopper spends too much money, chasing the thrill of owning some shiny new object: a designer handbag, an electronic gadget or some other ornament. Buyer’s remorse is a thing, and in my experience, it is most often rooted in boredom.

My tolerance for boredom is low. So low. I would liken my attention span to that of a sugared up tribe of toddlers’… at a toy store… with puppies. So yeah, I am constantly wrestling with boredom. Perhaps more often than most. My guy may be reading this right now, raising a hand in hearty agreement. Put it down, dude. No one can see you. And while I still sort of fear the wolf of boredom, I have recently learned to see it differently, and to seize the opportunities it brings. Consider this…

Boredom is linked to a faster heart rate and increased release of cortisol (the stress hormone). But as bad as that sounds, boredom makes us more alert, more likely to pursue engagement. Boredom is essential to our development. It compels us to seek fresh stimulation, to pursue new ventures, to tap into the creative recesses of our minds and invent new things. Researchers have said boredom is a sign of a healthy mind, and while it’s often associated with negative outcomes, it is actually a powerful motivator, leading us to experimental endeavors we might have otherwise missed. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology finds that bored participants outperformed those who were relaxed or even elated.

This post came about after a spell of boredom. I struggled with the feeling for a while and then began the research that led me to the above findings. Thanks, boredom. You really aren’t so bad.

I humbly bow to your awfulness. 

Mantra: Let boredom be a tool rather than a tragedy.

2 Comments
  • Lee Gaitan
    May 7, 2017

    So true! I love the last line as it can be said about so many of our emotions and even experiences in life–we must actively harness the power they have and use it to our benefit. As you say, knee-jerk reactions to boredom–spending money, eating doughnuts!–are not good, but boredom can be a great motivator for pushing us to explore new ideas and challenges. Great post from a great writer!

    • Rica Lewis
      May 7, 2017

      What a wonderful point, Lee. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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