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Boredom: Enemy or Ally?

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Do you occasionally find yourself in those moods where you feel flat, dull and lacking stimulation? You know those days where you mope around and drag your feet trying to find something to do because you’re just THAT bored? We’ve all had those day where nothing seems to interest us but we still have this longing need for distraction and entertainment. What if I told you that this mundane, heavy boredom could actually be beneficial?

Let’s face it, being bored is not the most pleasant experience there is but I believe there is incredible value to it.

Allow me to explain

When we’re bored, our initial instinct tells us to find something to do to avoid further boredom. What we often end up doing is scrolling on social media, or sometimes call a friend, because as humans we crave distractions. But what if we resist that urge? What could happen if we let ourselves be curious about the boredom we’re experiencing? Well, I believe that boredom can be an opportunity to let our minds wander.

I know what you might be thinking: let our minds wander? Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid in meditation? Isn’t mindfulness all about letting go of our wandering thoughts? It's true that psychotherapy and mindfulness help individuals develop awareness of maladaptive thoughts because these thoughts can interfere with our wellbeing and in some cases can even cause severe mental health concerns. While these issues are real and important to address, we can also realize that not all thoughts are problematic.

Some thoughts are beautiful. There are thoughts that are innovative, inspiring and life-changing. Curiosity and a wandering mind has lead humans to have wonderful, meaningful ideas, which alter the future of our species.

On the other hand, distractions limit our creativity and expression of speech by directing our attention to an external stimulus. This constant need to be stimulated and entertained is preventing us from channeling our inner wisdom by reducing our ability to reflect and contemplate, which we do by thinking.

Next time you find yourself bored, try this for a change: allow yourself to stay bored for a few moments. See what happens if you let yourself think and daydream, while also being aware of the content of your thoughts. I believe that this practice, even if you try it only for a few moments, can allow you to harvest new insight from your thought. Perhaps you’ll notice thoughts that reflect your inner desires and goals, or maybe you’ll fall into a rumination trap.

I suggest practicing what I call the “wandering mind” mindfulness exercise in moments of boredom.

Remember that the focus of this practice are the thoughts themselves so here's how you do it:

  1. Direct your attention at the flow and content of your natural mind.

  2. Once you start losing track of your thoughts, intentionally try to bring your awareness back to the content, without judgement.

This exercise has merit by giving us the opportunity to notice patterns and trends in our thoughts. The thoughts we have reflect our emotions, values and desires. This is partly what makes us unique as individuals.

Do you want to learn more about who you are and develop a stronger sense of self? Next time you find yourself bored, try being curious about your cognitions by allowing yourself to mindfully wander. Make boredom an ally.

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