Boring Is As Boring Does? So Where Does That Leave Us Now?
“Boring is as boring does” or “only boring people get bored’, is what our parents used to tell us during school holidays when the days seemed to stretch before us and they were fed up of trying to pretend to keep us entertained and happy.
For us 70s kids that meant jigsaws, the amazing Atari orange box (if you know, you know), or playing outside (whatever the weather). But without daytime children’s tv, the internet or snapchat, etc. the boredom we faced was almost bone-crunching. It was endless and the days seemed lifeless.
As adults we are uber busy now, barely standing still. We don’t stop. We relentlessly keep going. Working, balancing, dating, being on social media, pets, parents, kids, hobbies, exercise. Busy. Busy. Busy.
And now we can’t. Now, we have to stop and slow down and stay in.
If boring is as boring does then yup, we’re bored. Hands up. We admit it. Our parents have won. WE ARE BORED. Our diaries are empty and nothing remarkable is going on. It’s more of the same…again.
And with that boredom comes guilt. Not only because of the “only boring people get bored” ingrained on our memory, but also because frontline workers – those dealing with sick patients day in, day out – would do anything to be sat at home, bored. They’re risking their lives every single day for others. And yet, we can’t help it…your emotions are your emotions and how you feel is valid. Boredom and all.
So as the fog of boredom descends on us Brits, what can we do to deal with it?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand what boredom is. It’s basically when you have energy that’s going nowhere. When you would normally be stimulated or engaged with other people or activities, and that energy is not cooped up and trapped. Add onto that the fact that many of us are feeling anxious or stressed due to so many uncertainties (work, financial, not being able to see loved ones, etc.) and a lot of people are not doing ok.
If we were super busy we would probably relish the idea of sitting down to binge watch the latest Netflix series, but given the fact that we currently can’t go out, it seems more like a punishment than a treat. It feels uncomfortable and we feel restless. We would normally stop doing something that we don’t want… put that book down, finish playing a game, change the channel. Right now we feel like that opportunity is denied us. There is nothing different to do. No channel to switch to.
This lack of control compounds anxiety. When we at least perceive being in control research shows us that we report feeling less stressed. Remove that autonomy and our frustration skyrockets.
So what can we do? How do we change our mindset? Feel less bored?
First and foremost, if you can understand that boredom is uncomfortable you can grasp that the need to escape its discomfort can push us into trying new things, or doing accustomed things in new ways. We have more attention span and more time and we could use this to our advantage.
If we can let go of the expectation of being active, entertained or distracted at all times, taking time out to let the mind wander is beneficial to our mental functioning. To be able to be mindful and do things with purpose rather than rushing like a headless chicken is so good for our cognitive function as well as our soul.
Our own brain’s search for neural stimulation can lead to stimulation of creativity. Doing nothing (not scrolling on social media or watching reruns of friends) means your mind can wander and daydream.
Going out for a walk into the fresh air, or even sitting by a window looking out at the trees and nature will allow you to stimulate daydreaming and this is the key to creativity. It’s truly a gift. If you need to start a long-term project, or take up a new hobby, or think your way around a current situation, this is perfect – and can take you to a place of flow.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, considered one of the co-founders of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research flow. In Csikszentmihalyi’s words, flow is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (1990).
This is the state where we are most productive, fulfilled and happy. Getting really immersed in an activity that stretches one’s abilities produces a fulfilling sense of ‘flow’ in which one loses oneself and does not notice the passing of time.
So think about the things you can do, the ones you’ve been putting off and immerse yourself in the peace and quiet of a gentler lifestyle for the coming few weeks.