Inconvenience or opportunity? Mindful ways to deal with boredom

Just like envy, boredom is a feeling that is not very popular. When we feel bored, we want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Nowadays, this usually means reaching for our cell phones, surfing around pointlessly and not even realizing how we are wasting our time. We often can’t believe how long we’ve been immersed in Instagram & Co. when we finally put the phone away again.

Many of us feel even more frustrated afterwards than before, knowing that we have simply wasted precious moments.

Boredom is also a reason why lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic were so unpleasant for many people. As soon as they were unable to carry out their usual activities, they no longer knew what to do with themselves.

But is boredom really just an inconvenience? Or can it also be an opportunity?

What actually is boredom?

A well-known definition of boredom comes from Dr. John Eastwood, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto: “Boredom is the unpleasant feeling of wanting to do a satisfying activity but not being able to do so.”

This definition reveals a lot. First of all, it is striking that the label “unpleasant” is used directly here. So boredom is not a feeling that we enjoy. We resist it and look for ways to end it.

On the other hand, according to the definition, there is not just a need for any activity, but for a “satisfying” one. So it doesn’t even have to be the case that there are no activities available to us at all when we are bored. It may also be that we perceive the options we have as unsatisfactory. Therefore, scrolling blindly on our cell phones is not a good way to combat boredom either.

Boredom – a question of perspective

When we are bored, we are often even embarrassed. If you are asked about plans and don’t have any, it is often rather unpleasant. You feel as if you are uninteresting and don’t know what to do with yourself. Those who organize their free time as efficiently as possible are respected.

In Italy, on the other hand, there is an expression called “Dolce Far Niente” – the sweet idleness.

The adjective “sweet” alone shows that the lack of plans is viewed completely differently here. It is positive, even pleasurable – a conscious switching off from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, something you treat yourself to rather than something you endure.

Friedrich Nietzsche coined the quote “Boredom is the calm of the soul”. Doesn’t that sound nice? Letting the inner turmoil calm down for once?

Boredom as an opportunity

The next time you feel bored, try to look at the feeling from a new perspective. Take it as an opportunity to give your thoughts time to sort themselves out. A moment of pause can be very beneficial.

At the same time, this is also the ideal moment to view boredom as motivation to look around for fulfilling activities. How often do we even get the opportunity to do this? All too often we are so busy and sometimes even overloaded with the duties of everyday life that we have neither the time nor the energy to question what we really enjoy doing and what we find fulfilling.

Personally, I have found it a gift to ask myself exactly that during the pandemic, to try out different activities without any pressure. It’s a luxury to be able to ask yourself “what do I want to do with my time now?” instead of thinking “what else do I have to do now?”.

Mindfulness is now a very overused word, but it is also useful when you are bored. It can help you find a healthy way of dealing with the feeling. The next time you’re bored, don’t immediately reach for your cell phone. Allow yourself the opportunity to consciously notice and question the feeling of boredom. Why are you bored right now? What would you find fulfilling at this very moment? Or perhaps a moment of complete peace and quiet would suit you just fine?

An Ayurvedic perspective on boredom

Not all boredom is the same. Here too, there are various forms in which the feeling can manifest itself.

On the one hand, there is the classic “hanging around”: You feel lethargic, listless, have no idea what you might feel like doing.

On the other hand, there’s restlessness: you’re fidgety, restless, with countless thoughts running through your head, but you can’t really hold on to any of them.

In Ayurvedic terms, the ‘hanging around’ variant has Kapha properties. This dosha, which is characterized by the element earth, stands for stability and calm when it’s balanced. If it is out of balance, you feel lethargic and completely unmotivated. If you find yourself in this state, activating movement is a good solution. Practice a few sun salutations and let the heaviness fall away. Then make yourself a hot Kapha tea and use essential oils such as eucalyptus or mint.

In balance, Vata gives us enthusiasm and creativity. Restlessness and flurry, on the other hand, are classic symptoms of excessive Vata dosha. Meditation can help here. If sitting still seems daunting to you, try gentle, flowing movement in harmony with your breath. Dedicate yourself to a meditative activity, such as painting or coloring. There is also an appropriate tea for Vata. Oils for balancing Vata include rose and lavender.

The next time you feel bored, grab a pen and paper and do a little journaling session. Describe the feeling you are experiencing at that moment. Ask yourself: Are there moments when you even wish you were bored?  If you could do anything right now, what would you choose and why? Is there an activity you can do right now that would have a similar effect on you?

Just the process of reflecting and writing it down can bring you out of your lethargy and awaken new motivation or bring some calm to your inner turmoil.

When was the last time you were bored? How did you deal with it? Share it with me in the comments!

One thought on “Inconvenience or opportunity? Mindful ways to deal with boredom

  1. Marta says:

    Hi Doro,

    thank you so much for posting this article on boredom.
    I love colouring whe getting bored. I oftentimes grab my pen to jot down a couple of thoughts that trouble my mind in moments of these.

    I thoroughly agree with what you write and, especially, thank you for the Ayurvedic tipps.


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