The Benefits of Being Bored

by Kristen McElveen, ND

photo credit: Death to Stock

photo credit: Death to Stock

How many other things are you doing right now, as you’re reading this? Is there a TV or radio on? Are you travelling (hopefully not driving)? What is in your other hand?

The age of multitasking has seemingly made us more efficient, but has it? Is it efficient to give partial attention to 5 things at a time, or full attention to one thing at a time?

There are arguments to both sides.

One thing I am seeing more and more often though is the fear of being bored.

Busy parents plug in their kids to some tablet or device to buy them some time to simply go to the bathroom or call a repairman. Adults plop down after a long day and rather than sip a glass of wine and reflect on the day, we flip on the TV or grab a device to get that next fix of sound bytes, news or addicting game.

No wonder everyone is full of panic and anxiety.

We are all in constant fight-or-flight mode with an almost constant need to be distracted or stimulated by some type of entertainment or action.

I was recently on the subway and a teenager sat next to her (presumed) mother and after barely three seconds, she let out this sigh of despair and exclaimed “I’M SO BORED!” There hadn’t even been time to get bored. She literally had just sat down.

Is it boredom? Or is it fear?

Is it fear of thinking? Or fear of actually seeing what our thoughts are?

What are you distracting from?

I believe this is one reason why the world is in so much chaos right now – so many are distracting and have become so far removed from their own emotions that they forget how to feel and express those emotions and the rage or shame or guilt or whatever it is that they are feeling comes out in a fury, usually onto someone completely unaware and undeserving.

Making yourself think you need constant stimulation and then wondering why you have difficulty slowing down or sleeping or relaxing seems silly when you just look at it rationally. But it’s hard to be rational when we keep putting these irrational expectations on our daily lives.  

So many people come to me saying they feel like they just can’t take a breath.

“I can’t seem to relax, I can’t sleep and when I do, I don’t feel rested when I wake up.”

When I ask what their average day looks like, it’s easy to understand why – there are barely any moments of unstimulated time.

When was the last time you looked at the wall, or looked around your living room and simply sat, taking in the colors and the décor and the smell and the feel of the couch underneath you?

When was the last time you were really present? In the now?

Boredom is just a fear. There really is no such thing as boredom. Boredom, to me, is fear of getting to know yourself. Fear of what your internal voice may say if you give it room to speak. Fear of what you may think about that has been in your past, or fear of worries about the future.

It’s all just fear.

Fear is an illusion. A feeling. It is not who we are. We are beings who are conscious in the present. Feel that fear, acknowledge it, accept it and see that it was just a feeling.

When you feel fear, look around.

Is there any true danger?

If yes, then use the adrenaline from your fear to get to safety.

If no, then how do you feel now that you know it was just fear peeking out and saying hello? Better? What comes into your mind next?

There is no such thing as boredom because all we are meant to do is to be.

If you truly become a master of zen and tranquility and truly have not one thought, not a song or color or feeling going on in your brain when you just sit and relax, then you aren’t bored, you’ve actually reached enlightenment!

That literally is the entire point of this crazy life!

Simply to be, without thoughts, without feelings, just observing the now – the scents, the touch the sounds.

You.

Boredom gives us a chance to check in with ourselves. To see what those thoughts are. To see what those fears are. To feel that love radiating from within. To see the miracle of us.

If we don’t feel and acknowledge those feelings, then they will make sure they get acknowledged somehow. If not emotionally through anxiety, insomnia, nervousness, etc, then physically. Some people get eye twitches. Some get rashes or dry, itchy spots. Some get irritable bowels. Some have actual seizure-like events even though they do not have epilepsy.

Your body will tell you when it needs to feel something and that time that we get where we are not being stimulated or soothed by a distraction is the time we need to address those very things.

So take note of what you distract yourself with. What are your proverbial binkies?

Mine is definitely Twitter and my iPad in general. I used to have the TV or radio on almost all the time when I was home, just for background noise if anything else. Now, I only turn them on at certain times. I like to hear my building, my neighborhood, my cats, my stomach growling.

Start being more aware of how you distract yourself and start giving yourself space to be bored and see what comes up. Sometimes we just need a little space to think things through.

We need room to dream. To imagine. To invent.

When was the last time you fantasized about something ridiculous? What happened to your imagination?

Next time you have to wait for something, whether it’s at a doctor’s office, or waiting for a train, or a friend or family member, just allow yourself to imagine.

Think of something completely ridiculous, like your favorite childhood character bursting through the wall and bouncing around the waiting room. Bring play back into your mind. Joy.

Or…

Just sit. Be in the moment. Feel the now and nothing else, which again, is life’s only purpose.

The more we can live in the now, the more conscious and connected we are, whether it be to God or Universe or whomever or whatever you believe in.

It’s ok to be bored. In fact, it’s necessary.