We hear it often from our kids — “I’m so bored.” As parents, you might dread those words, “you have so much you can do, why are you bored?” As adults, you might welcome boredom or you might dread it.
Generally, boredom is viewed as an unpleasant emotional state, characterized by feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and mental fatigue. We often have a strong desire to escape boredom, to find anything to occupy our mind. There is a tendency to run to outside stimulation — such as watching tv or playing video games when bored.
Despite having the desire to run from boredom by turning to distractions, it can be more beneficial to allow yourself to feel bored. Here’s why:
Boredom is a catalyst for action
When you feel bored you want to change that feeling. You want to feel fulfilled and accomplished. Boredom motivates you to make a change. If you are bored at your job you may want to tackle new projects or change careers. It signals that you are not doing what you want to do be doing, encouraging you to shift your goals to more fulfilling prospects.
Boredom promotes creativity, forcing you to think outside the box. It forces you to think inward and reflect. It enables problem-solving by allowing your mind to daydream and wander. Studies show that mundane activities can lead to the discovery of useful ideas. Maybe that means turning your house into a giant fort for your kids, planning a picnic lunch instead of the normal fare, starting a house project, going on a hunt for the hidden hiking trails of Pennsylvania, taking a long way home, or even writing a book or blog. Often the most beautiful days are built out of sheer boredom.
It motivates us to find novelty, which is the very thing that makes humans who they are—intelligent and curious. When we are bored, we are motivated to find adventure, to make changes, to do something new. It encourages us to question the status quo, to find a different path.
Boredom can improve our mental health
These days our minds are always being flooded with information. We are constantly surrounded by distractions and overloaded with details, events, the happenings of our friends and neighbors. All the information that our brains are taking in at one time means we have limited cognitive resources for other activities—it is hard to focus well on one thing when we are thinking about lots of things. Taking a break and allowing yourself to feel bored presents a valuable opportunity for our overloaded brains to relax and alleviate stress. It is healthy to step away from social media and other outside distractions, like video games, television, etc. long enough to feel bored.
Tolerating boredom is a skill
Now more than ever children are on screens. They are always doing something. They are no longer looking out windows when on long car rides or being forced to sit in a restaurant and wait for their meal without an activity or distraction. Boredom to our children feels like the worst. But, allowing them to feel bored teaches them how to tolerate those unpleasant feelings, learning self-control skills, and regulating their thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Next time your child complains of feeling bored, you might want to consider allowing them to sit with those feelings for a bit. Eventually, they will figure out how to engage their brain and cure their boredom, maybe through creative play, arts and crafts, or backyard adventure.
Learning to embrace boredom
It is not always easy to feel bored but by putting boredom into perspective you may find it easier to embrace those feelings next time. Let your mind wander. Allow yourself the freedom to soak up all that creative energy and reflect on where you want to be in life.
If you need help finding the right path, therapists at Move Forward offer online and in-person counseling sessions to anyone in the state of Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Williamsport, and beyond. Counseling can help you to sort through your thoughts and give your boredom some direction.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to get started to feeling better. You can get the tailored help you need right now. We are here for you.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: email@example.com.