We all know boredom to one extent or another. Some of us are easily bored, some of us less so, but most of us avoid boredom like COVID. If we get even the slightest tingle of boredom, we tend to cram a screen in our face – “best not to explore my own idle thoughts for even a second, where’s my phone?” We’ve actually built our lives around never being bored. Streaming video platforms play the next episode within five seconds of the previous episode ending. Shows are meant to be binged, whether or not anyone admits it. Take notice of how few shows give a recap before each episode. Recaps, after all, are only for when time has passed between show viewings – if you never left your couch for an entire season of a show, what’s there to recap?
But boredom as we know it – having nothing to do, and the listless drift that accompanies it – isn’t a bad thing. Believe me, as a very anxious person, I know how it feels to not want to be alone with your thoughts for even a second. It could be a nightmare. In fact, it still is a nightmare, and I’m medicated. But, avoiding the mind-wandering that boredom tends to yield isn’t exactly a healthy solution to undesirable thoughts. It’s avoidance, that’s all it is.
Why do we need to occupy ourselves at all times? I’ve still not gotten a grasp on that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the same modern comforts as everyone, my exception of course being I don’t use Facebook or Twitter – but, I don’t necessarily understand avoiding boredom and filling up all of your time. I’ve known so many people who can’t sit but for a few minutes without asking what we’re going to do next. I have a different relationship with boredom. A great deal of what I do creatively, including all of my writing, is sparked by idle thought. By not filling up my time with mindless busywork and arbitrary application use, I have time to hear my thoughts and work them out.
Boredom isn’t inherently a negative thing, despite what we’re marketed. You don’t need to busy yourself every waking moment. In fact, you shouldn’t. That private thought time, even if it’s for 20-minutes before you have to do something else, is crucial. We’re constantly overstimulated, despite so many of us being trapped indoors. Boredom occurs when you run out of planned tasks and obligations, when you haven’t mapped out your time to the second. You’re left feeling a little lost, shocked to be stationary after so much time in motion. Embrace that, it doesn’t happen often – a moment of respite, time to collect yourself and figure out what happens next, if anything.
We’ve so rigidly structured our lives that boredom never has time to set in, and when it does, we tamp that shit right down.
But there’s nothing wrong with boredom, just as there’s nothing wrong with a nap. You nap when you need a small recharge, boredom is mind recharge. It’s like giving your mind some free time in the yard, it’s got to run around, it’s got to stretch. Give your mind some space to breath, it doesn’t need constant stimulation – real life is hard enough without something else drawing focus. Boredom isn’t your enemy, nor is idle thought.