Boredom: The Other Pandemic.

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With the large amount of time spent at home over the last year or so and various restrictions, many of us have had to spend more time with ourselves in the same four walls. After a while you start to get bored of the same things – same shows, same movies, same music, same games, same routines – heck – you get bored of spending time with yourself. It’s been a tough slog for many of us without the same opportunities to socialise and interact with other people and activities. I’m not for a second downplaying the mental health aspects of not being able to spend time with friends and families. Humans are social creatures by nature. But boredom is a relatively modern disease if you think about it. Boredom doesn’t come from a lack of options, it comes from having too many. Simply put – boredom isn’t an option for those that don’t have so many options. Do you think past generations working long hours on physically demanding jobs for poor pay and with poor safety got home after a 12/14 hour day and said “well I’m bored right now”? People don’t even relax properly these days. Relaxing or “chilling out” usually involves watching TV while scrolling through your phone on different apps at the same time multitasking and getting involved with stressful events and materials like gossip or a negative news story. If anything we’ve never had so many options on the back of media and the internet. I’m young but still old enough to remember magazines and newspapers in waiting areas – now everyone just sits on their phone where they can do anything from watch a video to learn a language. Everything has a half life of sorts where we forget just how great it was when it was first introduced, we adapt to a “new normal” of sorts. Can you remember your first video game console, your first TV or the first time you got satellite TV with hundreds of channels or Netflix? You were probably in awe – wow isn’t this great!? Now we scroll through hundreds of shows and movies and say “nothing on” (I’m horrendously guilty of this). We have so many options at our finger tips to entertain ourselves, keep ourselves healthy, learn, experiment, laugh, enjoy, cry – and if we don’t have something that hooks us or we just can’t be bothered with – we just don’t bother – we just complain. Although kids often complain that they’re bored, when they’re left to their own imagination they often always find something to do (even if sometimes dangerous or silly). They can turn anything into a game or an experience. When we get to a certain age we just seem to want something to prod us emotionally and chemically with the least amount of effort. We want the outcome of feeling entertained without the effort it sometimes takes. Take learning something difficult – guess what – you’re not going to enjoy every second of it, but if you enjoy the process or the bigger picture of “hey if I learn Spanish when I come out of lockdown I’m going to Barcelona and I’m ordering a cerveza” – you’ll stay engaged. You’ll give it your attention. People often do something without even paying attention. They watch a movie but switch off mentally or they go to a restaurant for food but don’t really taste the food, they don’t take in the ambience. They wolf it down after taking a couple of photos for Instagram and leave.

The best way to not be bored is to be fully present with every experience. Watching a movie without a phone and paying attention. Maybe switching the lights off and getting some popcorn and getting in the “movie mode” Another way might be to think about what you’re most passionate about and putting more time in to that whether it’s walking, reading, art, a hobby. Invest more of your time in the things that have the greatest impact – not the wasteful stuff. Another factor is that quiet or being alone can be quite lonely in itself. And it is and can be. But we often neglect the benefits of short term quiet and solitude. Spending time with yourself without distractions can be some of your best thinking and creative time. Time to work on yourself and your goals and dreams or to tune out from all the noise that so many of us have with busy working lives. Undoubtedly when things get back to some kind of normal we’ll all want to rush into the things we’ve missed out on, quite rightly. But before we run headfirst into endless days and evenings with social events and making up for lost time – don’t forget that the options before you are a gift (one that can clearly be taken away quite suddenly as Covid has shown). Use your time wisely when you have all your options back. Don’t “get bored” – enjoy every single freedom and option you have with the time you have. Life isn’t a constant adrenaline fuelled ride where we’re constantly living at high speed but it isn’t one where we sit and complain that we have “nothing to do” when we’re very privileged to have any options in the first place.