I think, as a whole, we are all terrified of being bored. Faced with the prospect of an empty Friday night, most college students desperately reach out to all of their nearby contacts, looking for someone to do something with them and protect them from the desolation of their own company.
I think most of us are so accustomed to being busy that when we stumble upon some moments with absolutely nothing to do, we panic.
We pull out our phones to call a friend who is probably too busy to talk; we play mindless video games; we scroll through social media and watch reels that have us rolling on the floor with laughter but are forgotten within seconds.
There is a real fear of boredom, and it can take us to places and lead us to do things that we should never do or that leave us feeling even more meaningless and lost. Because we fear boredom, we seek fulfillment in things that fail to satisfy long term.
People seem to be in constant pursuit of busyness and achievement. Because who is going to believe they’re worth anything if they don’t have something to show for their time?
If you’re a nice person, you probably regularly ask your friends, “How was your day?”
Oftentimes, the response will be something like, “Oh, it was terrible; I didn’t get anything done.”
Since when is the quality of our day measured by how much we got done? Shouldn’t the quality of our day be calculated by how much happiness the things we did brought to ourselves, those around us and, most importantly, God?
When unattainable, empty pockets of time always seem so precious, so full of potential. As soon as they actually materialize, we find ourselves burdened by the boredom. Despite being a supposedly busy last-semester senior, I find myself alarmed by occasional holes in my time.
Similar to many people, I have the mentality that in order to find meaning, I must be productive. Boredom is not productive. Therefore, I have no meaning when I am bored.
But what if there is meaning in our supposed boredom? What if, when we have nothing to do, that is actually a time for us to just be? People are always doing; how often are they being?
Personally, I’ve come to admire people who know how to rest more than those who are always busy. I’ve decided I want to be like them. But those people are very hard to find, and role models in this area are sadly lacking.
I don’t mean a lazy type of rest here, when you sit on your bed in a state of moroseness all day and watch shows or game or sleep. I’m not talking about those people who are constantly taking self-care days, which often tend to be more destructive than caring (eating garbage, lounging around getting out of shape, glutting the mind with inane or harmful television and so on).
I mean people who can truly connect with their interior and find out who they are because they stop to actually think about it. These people aren’t so afraid of their own thoughts that they try to avoid them with busyness.
Those who master boredom are the people who know how to enjoy life. Studies show that being bored can improve brain health. By training the brain to be content in “boring” circumstances, it becomes less dependent on excitement to make it happy. When you’re not reliant on high levels of dopamine to make you happy, you will find yourself happy in simple and everyday circumstances.
So many of us go for those flash-in-a-pan experiences that leave us feeling empty. In the long run, the person who indulges in frequent “ragers” cannot be happier than the person who knows how to enjoy the inevitable quiet evenings with no plans. The former may feel on top of the world for one night but will end up miserable by morning. The latter is better able to appreciate the excitements of life that are fewer and farther between.
Additionally, studies show that instead of wearing out your mind, like constant activity does, boredom allows the brain to extend to new and often unique avenues of thought. And that’s when the biggest breakthroughs can come about. If you let your brain rest, you’re actually able to be more productive in the long run.
So maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of boredom. What if we turn off the music and the phone more often and stop fearing alone time? What if we take more walks with no destination and stop always rushing to fill the void? We might be surprised at the places our brain takes us.
Slowing down could be our ticket to actual purpose and meaning in life. Maybe we can enjoy every situation we find ourselves in, even if it seems pointless or boring.
I encourage you to not fear your thoughts. They are what will lead you to discover who you really are and what you really want.
Boredom doesn’t have to be bad. Boredom can be good and lead us to do good things. It’s only bad when it leads us to improper actions just for the sake of stifling that boredom.