Rekindling The Lost Art Of Boredom
A few weeks ago I found myself on my knees beside my bed plugging my phone into a charger, while simultaneously completing the next level of ‘Wordgames’. I stayed there on the floor for a good five minutes making one word after the other from the selection of letters until I had completed that round. It was not a proud moment.
Why did I do that? Because I’d seen my boyfriend play this game on his phone and it hooked my interest. I love words, and it seemed fun tracing your finger over the screen until a word came together. I’d like to say it was created by the devil to steal my time. But that would be letting myself off the hook. I got drawn into playing this game in my downtime rather than just enjoy the quiet.
I’m glad to say this period didn’t last long. It is the first and only game I have ever downloaded, and it is now safely consigned to my virtual trash can. But looking back on the few days I had it it really illustrated how bad I had become at boredom.
From what I can see I am not alone.
No wonder so many people struggle with sitting quietly and meditating, even though we know the benefits. Sitting and doing nothing for more than a few moments is something we rarely do. Research carried out way back in 2014 asked men and women to sit quietly with their thoughts for just 15 minutes. They were left alone in a room with only a small device that they were told would give them a mild, but unpleasant electric shock if the touched it. 65% of all men and 27% of the women pressed the button. Many did so repeatedly.
Goethe wrote believed he could predict someone’s future by observing how they spend their time:
“If I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.”
I don’t want to waste precious time diving down rabbit holes on my phone any more. I am taking a deep dive into distraction and how to arm ourselves against it. More to come.
For now here are three tips I have found to be useful:
- Start small. Choose a moment each day when you sit in silence looking at something. Even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. It could be a plant, a candle, a picture, something in nature. Start building up that muscle.
- The antidote to boredom is curiosity. Get curious about even the most mundane of tasks. For instance when making a cup of coffee take a moment to hold a coffee bean in your hand. Feel it with your fingertips. Smell it. I’ve been taking photos of ordinary things recently with my macro lens and I am seeing them in a whole new way.
- Fun doesn’t have to be exciting. Play just has to hold our attention.