Today I stumbled upon a Psychology Today article called “Can I Let My Child Be Bored” by psychotherapist Nancy Colier and it aligned with some of my recent thoughts on technology, constant stimulation, and having trouble relaxing.
In today’s world, with smart phones and devices and a million things available to us at the tips of our fingers, it’s hard to unplug sometimes. I often feel myself reaching for my phone and switching between social media apps every time my mind isn’t occupied with something outside of my phone or myself.
I think most people experience discomfort in boredom, especially with the technology around us offering us constant stimulation. We fill up our empty moments with Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc. etc. But what if we learned to appreciate those empty moments, and appreciate boredom as a good thing?
In the article, which is mostly about the relationship between bored children and their parents, the author talks about how we normally see boredom and how we can change our attitudes towards it. She says,"we relate to boredom as an absence, something missing. We experience it as a state of nothingness: nothing to do, nothing to think about, nothing to learn, nothing to be with, nothing to play with, nothing to experience. Boredom, as we see it, is emptiness, a void.”
I think most people experience this fear of nothingness because in our fast-paced and internet-connected lives, there’s usually so many things to do. The minute we have a free moment, we become uncomfortable. We get lost in ourselves, or our social media.
The author also talks about our state of constant connection. She says, "At the same time, technology has created a new normal, namely, constant engagement.” The constant engagement causes us to be uncomfortable in boredom, because there’s always an Instagram feed to scroll through and a Twitter feed to refresh. But when you’ve seen everything there is to see there, what do you do? Is getting lost in the internet a healthy cure for boredom?
The author of the article offers two possible ways to see boredom as a good thing. One way is to embrace your curiosity. She says that, when we’re bored, “we have to create food for our attention.” Recently I’ve found that if I let myself be bored for a second instead of going straight to my phone, I’ll think of things I want to do that don’t involve being plugged in. For example, I’ll work on some DIY decorations for my room, try a new recipe, or relax with a book I forgot about because I was too busy to read it. Sometimes I’ll amaze myself with the things I’ll come up with to do when I let myself be bored for a second.
The second thing the author talks about is learning to find a companion within yourself. She says we need “to learn to tolerate ourselves.” Being mindful of our own thoughts, feelings and emotions when we’re bored can work wonders for our mental health. We can learn to be alone with our own thoughts instead of relying on social media to provide us engagement. So next time you find yourself with a gap of time to fill, try engaging yourself with your own thoughts and wishes instead of the virtual people on your social media feeds. Remember, a little boredom is good for you.