Why It’s Important to Enjoy Boredom

A dog looking bored. With caption, 'I'm so bored'.

If you’re thinking of skipping this post and moving on to the next, WAIT! I’ve got some very interesting things to say about boredom. You’ll have to read on to find out. I promise you won’t be bored.

Like it or not, boredom is part and parcel of life. Therefore, the capacity to endure boredom is essential to our happiness. If we are too used to having excitement in our lives, we will feel unhappy whenever we go through periods of boredom.

This article covers: 

  1. The Power to Withstand Boredom is Vital to Our Happiness
  2. We Shouldn’t Try to Fix Boredom 
  3.  Boredom Can Be Good

1. The Power to Withstand Boredom is Vital to Our Happiness

Man’s interpretation of boredom is rather negative. A person who is bored has nothing to do or lacks interest in his current activity. He is wasting his time and should occupy himself more meaningfully. Boredom is dreadful. It’s a sign of dissatisfaction. It’s a problem that needs to be fixed, or is it? 

Every Life Contains Boring Moments

British mathematician and philosopher, Bertrand Russell wrote in in his 1930 book, The Conquest of Happiness, ‘We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man, but can be avoided by a sufficiently vigorous pursuit of excitement.’ 

He asserted that some element of boredom is an essential ingredient in life. Many people are so used to having excitement in their lives that they have low boredom threshold. This causes them to be unhappy because life is not always full of excitement. 

Many people are so used to having excitement in their lives that they have low boredom threshold.

‘All great books contain boring portions, and all great lives have contained uninteresting stretches.’ That is so true. Boredom is a feature of life that cannot be avoided. In school, a student might find a particular subject extremely dry and struggle to stay engaged during lessons. Working life is no different because every job comprises tedious parts. A teacher might love teaching but hates the mundane administrative work that comes with the job, while an actor might love acting but finds the waiting between takes unbearably wearisome. 

It is also a fact that every relationship will have its dull moments, especially when the relationship settles into something more stable and comfortable over time. We can’t possibly quit love whenever boredom sets in. Neither should we give up our studies or jobs so easily.

Quote: All great books contain boring portions, and all great lives have contained uninteresting stretches - Bertrand Russell.

Too Much Excitement Is Not Good

Dependence on external stimulations — The opposite of boredom is excitement, a word associated with fun and pleasure. To escape boredom, most people usually turn to excitement from external sources. 

Hence, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit us, the whole world seemed to be beset by ennui. Pet ownership skyrocketed worldwide as many sought the companionship of a four-legged furry friend to help alleviate the tedium of being stuck at home. Our dependence on external stimulations and distractions means that we feel incredibly bored when we can’t access them. 

Increased boredom — The yearning for excitement is deeply rooted in the human race. Nevertheless, too much excitement can backfire on us as it ‘dulls the palate for every kind of pleasure’. We experience a growing sense of dreariness and crave for greater thrill and novelty. This inevitably results in a tiring vicious circle. 

‘A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure,’ wrote Russell. It’s like taking drugs — the more one uses them, the more he relies on them. And when he can’t get hold of the drugs, he becomes increasingly restless or agitated. 

2. We Shouldn’t Try to Fix Boredom

Since we cannot avoid boredom, accepting that it is normal to feel bored and finding joy in downtime is crucial to our happiness. According to Russell, this is one of the things that should be taught from an early age. 

‘The capacity to endure a more or less monotonous life is one which should be acquired in childhood. Modern parents are greatly to blame in this respect; they provide their children with far too many passive amusements, such as shows and good things to eat, and they do not realise the importance to a child of having one day like another, except, of course, for somewhat rare occasions.’ 

I think Russell’s observation is spot on. As boredom is supposedly bad, many parents pack their kids’ lives with endless activities. An idle moment must always be fixed by giving the child something interesting to do. As a consequence, the child grows up to become incapable of withstanding fruitful monotony. He lacks the focus and patience to perform mundane but necessary tasks. 

Quote: Don't pack your kids' lives with endless activities. Let them learn to enjoy boredom.

To Achieve Success, We Must Learn to Endure Boredom

Yes, boredom is really just impatience at times. When things aren’t interesting enough, many people simply disengage or give up. Their patience runs out quickly and this is further exacerbated by technology. We are so accustomed to speed and efficiency that we let out an irritated sigh if we do not get what we want quickly enough. 

When things aren’t interesting enough, many people simply disengage or give up.

But success requires patience and persistence. It involves consistent hard work, which includes doing boring stuff that needs to be done (sometimes repeatedly). For example, when it comes to building wealth, many people are not willing to put in the time and effort to read up about investing. They want to get rich but do not have the patience to go through the ‘boring’ process of acquiring knowledge. Instead, they listen to free advice or invest in risky get-rich-quick schemes. At best, their financial situations remain stagnant. At worst, they lose money.

Success requires patience and persistence. It involves consistent hard work, which includes doing boring stuff that needs to be done (sometimes repeatedly).

We Might Engage in Risky Behaviours If We Lack the Ability to Withstand Boredom

The inability to tolerate boredom might cause some people to engage in activities that are dangerous or highly subject to chance. To break the monotony of life, they pursue alternative experiences including risky ones such as street racing and substance abuse. 

Needless to say, increased risk-taking is bad for us. Imagine a 19-year-old going to prison because he vandalised his neighbours’ cars out of sheer boredom, or a retiree gambling his life savings away online because he has nothing else to do. People who are highly prone to boredom tend to lack the ability to self-entertain, so they seek thrill and take risks. 

Meme: Be warned: I'm bored. This could get dangerous. Lion in the tree.

3. Boredom Can Be Good

It is evident that boredom has a profound impact on our quality of life. It triggers all kinds of negative emotions like sadness, frustration and even hopelessness. I agree with Russell that the answer to boredom is NOT to overwhelm ourselves with external stimulations. 

If things are to change, we need to find solutions from within — first by telling ourselves that it is perfectly okay to be bored from time to time, second by recognising the value of boredom. 

The answer to boredom is NOT to overwhelm ourselves with external stimulations. 

Boredom Improves Our Mental Health

When was the last time you had nothing to do? No work, no chores, no appointments. Did you automatically turn to your phone or TV for entertainment?

Digital technology is awesome in numerous ways, but its baneful effects on our mental health are also real. Our brains are so overloaded that we can’t seem to relax these days. 

Besides being constantly bombarded with information and images, we find ourselves sending and replying text messages round the clock. Many of us are sleep deprived because of our addiction to smartphone use and this, in turn, has caused stress to build up. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the deleterious effects of stress on our physical and mental health.

It is hard to decompress when we are perpetually distracted by our handheld devices and other stressors. We need a respite. Thus, it is good to have a digital detox from time to time, long enough to feel bored. 

Every once in a while, I like to put my phone away and rest on my comfy sofa in quiet contemplation. Sometimes, I simply space out and think nothing. It’s my way to tame my overactive mind. When it gets too boring, I get up and find something productive to do. Boredom can be extremely therapeutic.

Quote: Do you need a digital detox? Image: Macbook on table with cup of coffee.

Boredom Helps Us Discover Our Interests

Did you struggled with Covid-boredom in 2020 and 2021? I am quite sure many people were so freaking bored that they thought they would literally be bored to death. Well, they were wrong. Even social butterflies survived the two years. 

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ In the face of adversity, human beings tend to make the best of the situation and find fresh cause for optimism. Over time, we began to see Covid-boredom as an opportunity to take a break from the stresses and strains of life. With fewer activities and outside distractions, we could finally slow down, unwind and focus inward. 

Many of us discovered new hobbies or renewed old ones. Some people started baking. Others picked up needlework like crochet. Mr Wow and I had some serious fun learning how to cut hair from YouTube. 

Modern living often means busy living. Some people’s lives are so hectic that they do not even have the chance to figure out what their interests are. A little boredom will definitely serve them well.

Boredom Makes Us More Creative

Have you ever been to a humdrum graduation ceremony, birthday party or wedding celebration? How did you cope with the boredom? Did you make small talks with random strangers or simply stare at your phone the whole time? 

I like to switch to ‘screensaver mode’ and daydream. I think daydreaming is an excellent form of self-entertainment; I can have a uniquely happy time without uttering a single word to anyone. 

Of course, we shouldn’t be daydreaming if there is something important that requires our full attention. During my secondary school days, I often got reprimanded by my physics teacher for daydreaming. Even though his class was dreadfully boring, it was still my fault as I should have made more effort to cultivate interest. 

An appropriate time to daydream is during downtime when we have nothing to do. Sans external distractions, we can seek comfort inside our own heads and be lost in reverie. Daydreaming promotes creativity because it is pure imagination. We might have little consciousness of our surroundings, but our minds are actively generating ideas. We can think about anything we like, from a new business concept to a solution to a difficult problem. 

So the next time you have an idle moment, try doing nothing and just let your mind wander. Who knows, you might just transform that wild idea of yours into reality one day.

Quote: Boredom is only for boring people with no imagination - Tim Tharp. Image: Up in the sky, above the clouds.

I hope this article has helped you look at boredom in a different light. Our capacity to endure boredom has a considerable bearing on our happiness. So don’t be afraid of boredom. Instead of trying to avoid it at all costs, embrace it and turn it to your advantage. 

Our capacity to endure boredom has a considerable bearing on our happiness. So don’t be afraid of boredom.

Many years ago when I went abroad to study, I opted to stay on my own. Everyone said that I would be bored. I wasn’t. Two years ago before I turned 43, I officially retired from my business. Once again, everyone said that I would be bored. I know it may seem premature to say this, but I won’t. There will be dull moments, of course, but I will react to them positively (as always) while keeping my creativity alive and high. 

I think it was David Bowie who said, ‘I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.’ 

P.S. I’m passionate about this topic as I think I’m a pretty boring person. Boring but never bored, to be precise. Maybe because I have mild autism, I have limited interests and can do the same thing over and over again for hours. If there’s a competition on withstanding boredom, I’m confident that I’ll beat all neurotypical contestants, LOL! Anyway, if you’re interested in my story, you can read my article: I Have Asperger’s Syndrome. Don’t Hate me.

More about life: Why It’s Important to Follow Your Dream | Why Being Knowledgeable is Important | 10 Life Lessons from Clash of Clans | Taming Superstitious Beliefs: Is Bad Luck Just Coincidence?

Mrs Wow

Mrs Wow (aka Lynn) became debt-free in 2018, achieved financial independence in 2019, and retired in 2020 at the age of 42. She believes in staying invested even if there’s a level-5 shit storm. A homebody, she spends her free time reading, blogging and listening to music. Follow her on 𝕏 (@wowpursuits).

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