Boredom

Sometimes I hear people complain about being bored, and this always shocks and surprises me….How in the hell in this fast paced, hectic, topsy turvy, upside down, inside out ever evolving and changing world do they have time to even THINK about being bored? Boredom to me is a foreign concept, I barely ever have time enough in each day to do even the necessary things, like shopping for food and performing the maintenance issues, like car repairs or house cleaning we all face…And I am retired, so I don’t even have that big 10 hour chunk of each day swallowed up by the demons of work world like most people!

Bored? Oh please! Not to mention continuously working on my blog, playing my music to relax me, reading 3-4 books at approximately the same time, one book one night, another the next… And trying to keep up with all the sporting events that are broadcast every single day and night, baseball, football, basketball; thank goodness I have a DVR and can record most of these to watch at a more convenient time but OMG! How can anybody in this turbulent mix of a revolving door that we call American society ever complain about being bored?

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Boredom is defined by Websters dictionary as: “The state of being weary and restless through lack of interest”…Common synonyms for boredom include the “blahs, doldrums, ennui, listlessness, restlessness, tedium and weariness” OK! So now we are getting someplace…By definition, boredom then is not caused by a lack of things to do, as I perceived it, but rather from a lack of interest in things that you do….

It is more precisely defined as that feeling of being burnt out and that time is passing you by while you spin your wheels in some meaningless job, performing tasks you hate or have little interest in doing…… For example sitting in your cubicle knowing that what you are doing is only important at the moment…To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say (or do) here”…..

I mean, who remembers the majority of work projects or reports or assignments that you do in the arena of work world even last week?….Unless of course you screw them up, I am wagering even you don’t remember them, they all blur together…In that context I have more sympathy for people who say they are bored, because after 45 years of breaking rocks on the chain gang of work world, looking back I was bored almost all the time….This is what they call “Professional Boredom Syndrome.”

Delegates sit at the stage before the opening ceremony of 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 8, 2012. China's outgoing President Hu Jintao said the nation faced risk and opportunity in equal measure as he formally opened a congress of the ruling Communist Party that will usher in a once-in-a-decade leadership change. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

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I also read a fascinating article about “Chronic Boredom” and the risks involved in my Google research: “For most people, boredom is a passing, nearly trivial feeling that lifts as soon as your number is called, a task is completed or a lecture ends. But boredom has a darker side: Easily bored people are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, hostility, anger, poor social skills, bad grades and low work performance.

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Despite boredom’s ubiquity and pathological associations, psychologists have yet to pin down what, exactly, it is. Several different scales all claim to measure boredom—the most widely used is the Boredom Proneness Scale—but a recent analysis suggests that they are measuring slightly different phenomena. Explanations for ennui are even more plentiful, ranging from Freud’s theories of repressed emotions to individual differences in personality traits, the need for excitement, and attention skills.

Part of the boredom puzzle may be individual differences in how much excitement and novelty we require. Men, for example, are generally more bored than women. They also exhibit more risk-taking behaviors, report enjoying more dangerous entertainment and are more likely to say that their environments are dull. “People who are more likely to become bored do not see their environments as very rich or lively,” says Stephen Vodanovich at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, who has been working on boredom for almost 20 years.

Clues to the underlying causes of boredom have come from patients who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI). According to James Danckert, a neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, people with TBI often begin to indulge in riskier activities after their accidents. These activities might include taking drugs or jumping out of planes;pursuits they pick up in an attempt to deal with their new and chronic boredom.

Danckert theorizes that the massive flux of endorphins or pain medication necessary for recovery from a brain injury may have literally raised these patients’ threshold for psychological pleasure and reward. “Now instead of a coffee doing it for you, you need a triple espresso,” Danckert explains. “Anything that used to give you pleasure now has to be ramped up in order to succeed.” Like chronically bored but healthy people, they need far bigger hits to find fun.

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Highly bored individuals also tend to lack the ability to entertain themselves. As a result, they may turn to activities like doing drugs, says McWelling Todman at the New School for Social Research in New York City. “Drug use takes place during downtime when the person would have otherwise been entertaining themselves.” This may be especially true during adolescence, a time “when they are putting together the skills needed to deal with boredom in adulthood.”

Ironically, the proliferation of new technology and the overabundance of shiny new toys like lap tops, I pads, smart phones, and computer games may be contributing to the rise in boredom in today’s world…Many people feel that if they are not constantly multi tasking, they will become bored…They feel that they must constantly be “doing something.” Some people have even been observed playing computer games at movie theaters!….

So it appears I was hasty in my initial cursory dismissal of boredom as impossible or improbable in this modern world, especially after doing some more in depth research on the topic….It is apparently a valid psychological condition, and many people suffer from it…I guess the key for me, is that I am never bored because I have the luxury of mostly only doing things I like to do, instead of being forced to do things I hate to do…So I apologize to those people afflicted with this particular mental and psychological hangup…..I hope I haven’t bored you to death!

Maybe the new definition of boredom should not be too little to do, but too much to do!

For more information on boredom, see: Bored to Death at: http://www.scientificamerican.com › The Sciences › Features Scientific American

For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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