The Fine Art of Being Bored

A busy mind’s guide to doing nothing.

Anastasia Shch
Jun 11, 2020 · 5 min read
Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

When was the last time when you really were bored? Not internet-browsing bored. Not going-to-the-shopping-mall bored. Not even a reading-a-book bored. Properly bored.

We wear busy as a badge of honor. If we are not working, we are doing personal development, traveling, being productive, starting businesses, learning, growing, creating, etc.

And not being busy feels scary. For some people it means that they have to meet themselves face to face, for others, it means not feeling worthy, some can’t handle not being perfect and useful. When we have free time it just doesn’t feel right.

For many people leisure nowadays is just as busy as their working hours. Constant access to information spoiled our generation and we can’t imagine ourselves without being connected all the time.

So here is the question once again, when was the last time when you really did nothing?

Not All Boredom Is the Same

You’ve probably noticed that it’s not the same being “bored” with a book on the beach and being “bored” when you can’t think of anything to do.

There are different types of being bored and researchers identify 5 of them, that differ by the level of discomfort and action.

Indifferent boredom is associated with a relaxed state when you are the least stressed. You can feel a low motivation to do anything but feel pretty good overall.

Calibrating boredom makes you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what you want. It doesn’t nudge you towards an active search for something to do, but if you come across something better you still might do it.

Searching boredom, unlike the previous one, is an active version of looking for something when you feel discomfort from being idle.

Reactant boredom is often compared with being trapped when you can’t find a better alternative to what you are doing. Your emotional state can go from being tense to being angry.

Apathetic boredom — you are most likely to feel it when you have little control over the situation and don’t have any energy. Researchers noted that it made people feel unhappy, up to a depressive state.

Five Benefits For Your Mind

If being bored can result in increased tension and stress, what good can it do to your body and mind? Surprisingly enough, psychologists recommend it to maintain a healthy and engaged mind. So how does it help?

It relaxes your mind

When you limit access to information (and let's be honest — we consume a lot of content all the time), your brain gets a chance to stop processing for a bit and just be.

It improves focus

Boredom is one of the biggest enemies of productivity and concentration, but being aware of a wandering mind can teach you a lot about how your mind chooses what to concentrate on.

It makes you more creative

Boredom is the constraint that is pushing creativity. When you have limited tools and resources that you can access to entertain yourself, you need to get inventive with what you got.

It increases self-control

Being bored on purpose is difficult. There are plenty of distractions — books, online media, TV, people around, and so on. Sticking to it helps you to train your willpower which can come in handy when you need to be productive.

It makes you more mindful

Practicing mindfulness when being bored is a great way to become more aware of your surrounding, your own thoughts, ideas, and motivations. When you are not distracted, you are more open to listening to yourself.

Do Nothing, Be More

Being bored on purpose takes a lot of effort. Normally, not doing anything makes us physically uncomfortable.

If you ever meditated (especially at the beginning of your journey), you know the twitchy feeling that you get. At first, you can get into a comfortable position, then you need to clear your mind (and all the thoughts just start rushing into it), then you nose itches…

I’m not saying that meditation is the same as being bored, but the principle of being still and observing reminds me of the efforts to do nothing.

Avoid distractions

To make the most out of it, you should avoid distractions. Any source of information will draw your attention whether it is a book or your phone. Even though it is not a basic necessity, information has us addicted.

You soon will crave for the smallest tasks to distract yourself. Try to fight this urge and see where your mind is going when it’s left with nothing to hold on to.

Observe

We watch but don’t see, listen but don’t hear. Different types of boredom can have a more or less noticeable effect on your body and mind. Try to listen to yourself and notice how you react.

Be self-aware

This is the opportunity to turn off your mental autopilot and spend some time with intention. You will need to control yourself and it will keep it alert. Everything that you do (or don’t) at the time is being carefully evaluated.

Open your mind

The natural reaction to stress is taking control of the situation. This is a stressful situation too, but try not to let your mind go into a panic mode and instead let it wander. It is more likely to come up with unusual ideas and interesting solutions that you might not have thought of before.

Explore

Notice your surroundings. In the everyday rush, we start to take so many things for granted. Notice the little things that fill your life every day and try seeing them as if they were new to you. You’d be surprised by the experience that ordinary things can provide.

Being bored can be a significant help for your mind when it needs to relax and recharge. When done with purpose, it has more benefits for mental health than drawbacks. The key is to do it with intention. Then you are most likely to see improvements in your creativity, productivity, and focus.

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Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Anastasia Shch

Written by

Experience Strategist & Maker • Service design & UX research • Introvert’s Guide to Personal Branding: https://gumroad.com/l/introverts-guide

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Anastasia Shch

Written by

Experience Strategist & Maker • Service design & UX research • Introvert’s Guide to Personal Branding: https://gumroad.com/l/introverts-guide

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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