I left home one day to run errands and decided to leave my phone charging on the counter. The amplifier in my car has problems, so I keep my radio off.
I got gas. No email to check.
I got a carwash. No Facebook to peruse.
I waited 93 long seconds at a stop light. No podcast or music to entertain me.
I rarely feel the boredom during these micro episodes of “nothing to do” because I don’t have to. That doesn’t mean I’m not bored. I’ve just found something to avoid it.
I have a full calendar. To admit to being bored sounds ridiculous. I wondered during that short errand run, how is it possible to be both busy and bored?
But we rarely have to consider what to do about boredom because there’s always “entertainment” available. For example, working on a project you’re not enthused about? There’s got to be a tasty treat in the break room that’s more exciting than that spreadsheet or report. Or, a quick look at your phone will do the trick. Another dopamine surge and you’re scrolling instead of working. At least you’re not bored…
What to do about boredom.
But I think there’s a downside to that. Boredom can be a useful reprieve from busyness. It’s a chance to clear our minds, to brainstorm or visualize. (We can even come up with a blog post topic!) Using boredom as an opportunity to think clearly can be a valuable exercise.
I regularly coach clients around experiencing boredom without distracting from it. Eating, drinking, going online…these are all quick, easy boredom fixes that can have negative consequences. And the thing is, we don’t necessarily recognize it. Meaning, we don’t realize what we’re missing.
Keeping ourselves busy – whether with work, entertainment or “vegging out” – keeps us from “hearing” ourselves. Our true selves. Any angst we feel about something in our life never has time to surface…until it’s a huge hairball we can’t ignore. Then, it feels like it came out of nowhere.
Living our best life, including being at our ideal weight, means experiencing all the emotions without distracting from them. Wondering what to do about boredom, sadness, disappointment? Feel them. Use them for your growth and well-being. Trying to avoid or paper over them with calories and Cabernet only brings more of what you don’t want.
So, I have a challenge for you. Set up a specific five-minute period to experience boredom. Like being alone in the car with no music or podcast. Or waiting in line at the grocery store. Consider a boredom meditation. Use that time to breathe and reflect. To feel bored. And to be okay with it. The more you practice, the less of a pull all those distractions will have on you.
Share with me below the results of your boredom experiment.