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Causes of And Side Effects of Boredom


I think boredom is a new age problem. In a modern society we aren’t bored when we have a laptop in front of us, if we have a book we can pick up and read, someone to talk to on the phone, send off a text message, watch a show on TV or when we can be glued to our smartphones.

Sitting somewhere and thinking, daydreaming and staring off into space is considered passive and unproductive. Funny… not too long ago it used to be called meditation with a positive connotation.

Boredom is what is beneath the surface of all superfluous actions. We are constantly looking for something new to entertain us and that is the cure we have come up with to fight boredom. Humans create problems in fact just to prevent even one idle moment.

Unfortunately, it becomes a chase with no end in sight. When the solution we are pursuing isn’t the right solution we can spend a lifetime pursuing it and never finding it. 

We will even find excuses to justify our actions which cover up the underlying boredom. One person will say that they must constantly check their phone for work, another person will say they need to catch up on the latest news, monitor their stocks, catch up with friends living far away to maintain friendships.


Origins of Boredom

Boredom is created when we think too much about the future or the past. There is a lot of philosophical literature out there talking about waiting and enjoying stillness and I really didn’t get it for a while but the past couple of years it has started to make sense. Downtime for me is now the norm and tasks and activities are the static that break the peace. Being able to enjoy sitting somewhere and even staring off into the distance is a far greater skill than being entertained by a TV (so yea, I would be the weirdo sitting at the coffee shop staring out of the window, you are welcome!).


Trying To Cure Boredom

When I was spending $8-9k per month on a lavish lifestyle I was still endlessly bored. Sure, a new clothing item, a new piece of technology, a new car, a new condo or a new relationship filled in the gaps but as soon as things came to a standstill there was boredom. Boredom is nothing more than you having to spend time with yourself. Psychologists and tribal wise-men say you cannot truly be in a good relationship or be a good roommate until you can live with yourself. And you cannot live with yourself until you can tolerate yourself. You cannot tolerate yourself until you can accept your ill behaviors.  

Appropriately, nobody ever asked me back when I was living a lavish lifestyle if I was bored. I drove a Hummer, I had a project race-car, I was trying to start a side business, I was dating, I had really nice clothes, I was buff and I had several trips planned for the near future. And now that I don’t own much, don’t have a car, don’t travel much and am single I am far less bored… I don’t feel the need to fill my downtime with superfluous actions or gadgets… but I’m asked much more often “OMG, don’t you get bored?”

As overachievers we are constantly looking for something to do, planning out the next thing, thinking back on what we did wrong and could do better next time. We are filling downtime with tasks (think of all the calendar entries you have). A normal day for a professional is to set an alarm, go to the gym, make a quick breakfast, pack lunches for kids, drop kids off, run to the office, run that errand on the lunch break and run another errand right after work, get home and make food, get a quick workout in, go through bills/paperwork, get ready for bed, read something before bed and rinse and repeat.


Chaos To Cure Boredom

How can such a hectic life be maintained? Oh wait, it can’t! That’s why people are ready to kill each other on the freeway for being stuck behind someone driving slow. That’s why you get irritated that someone is taking up more isle space than necessary in the grocery store. That’s why you are ready to pluck your nose hairs out when someone asks a multiple question about a Starbucks drink while waiting in line to order. The water can’t boil fast enough, the A/C cannot kick in fast enough, your hair doesn’t dry fast enough and you are living your life as if you are in a hurry to get somewhere. In reality you (we, I) are just running away from this moment, from right here, from right now. Anywhere must be better than this.

I just aged a little thinking about such a hectic life routine. And many of us have done this for decades, it is what we have gotten used to, it’s our normal, it’s what our parents did. Laziness, unproductivity, lounging around, killing time and daydreaming are all negative things that we are taught to avoid. 

And yet on my days off I never know where the time went. I rarely look at my watch but it seems like it gets dark before I know it. I wake up and make my coffee, write in my journal, then head to the coffee shop and lounge, go for a stroll and eventually get to the gym or meet a friend for drinks and I usually end the night reading before bed or watching a few minutes of a Netflix movie. 

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