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A brief history of boredom

The science of boredom

  • Researchers found that boredom can indeed be problematic. Those who get bored quickly are more likely to be depressed and anxious, tend to be aggressive and see life as less meaningful.
  • But researchers also found a much brighter side of boredom. Boredom encourages a search for meaning in life, it increases exploration and inspires novelty seeking. Boredom enables people to reconsider what they are currently doing in favour of more rewarding alternatives.

Thus, it seems that boredom helps regulate our behaviour and stops us from getting stuck in unrewarding situations.

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Boredom is not that simple to explain
Boredom is not that simple to explain

We may tend to think of boredom as a response to monotonous activities. But boredom isn't this clearcut.

Research reveals that there's a significant variation in how much bo...

Boredom and modern society

Boredom is sometimes described as the plague of modern society.

  • Back in 2016, a French worker sued his former employer for "bore-out." He won.
  • Many people, especially those born between mid -1990s and late 2010s, scrolls aimlessly through apps and find nothing of interest.
  • People are even diagnosing their pets with boredom.
The struggle to define boredom

Psychologists differ in their definition of boredom.

  • In the 1960s and 1970s, boredom was defined as the feeling generated by a repetitive task. Researchers found that boredom increased alertness to the things happening around you (distractions).
  • From 1986, the opposite was found. A study found that boredom caused less concentration.
Boredom: Our Old Friend

In most of the ancient literature and philosophy, boredom is considered a personal, social and moral weakness.

Philosophers talk about boredom as proof that life is essentially meaningless,...

The Neutral Signal With Many Outcomes

Boredom is a signal to your body that the current activity is not meaningful and we should be doing something else, or be somewhere else. Many recent studies have associated boredom with the urge to flaunt social distancing rules and quarantine regulations.

Boredom by itself is a neutral signal but can affect a person in varied ways depending on his life situation and the current environment.

Boredom Is Like Pain

Boredom by itself does not feel great, but just like pain, it is a body’s emotional call to action. It nudges us to look for an alternate set of behaviours and try to add more significance to our activities.

We normally try to balance paying attention and finding meaning, wanting to do something but not wanting to do anything in particular.

Boredom
Boredom

Boredom is not characterised by the absence of desire. It involves desperately wanting to do something, but not finding anything that can satisfy that restlessness.

Boredom can be useful

When you experience boredom, it is telling you that you've become superfluous and pointless and that you need to reclaim the authorship of your life.

Psychologists call this a crisis of agency. You've become passive and let life happen to you instead of being engaged with the world on your terms, using your skills and talents in a purposeful way.

Don't linger at boredom

Proneness to boredom is the result of difficulties with self-regulation. Those who are inclined to boredom may feel that boredom is a prison.

Instead of using boredom as a passage to something new, they get stuck and struggle to move on, leading to depression and anxiety, problems with drug and alcohol use, and gambling.