When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting. — Jon Kabat Zinn
We each spend an average of an hour a day waiting, and I can’t count the number of clients I see who can’t stand feeling bored. For people who struggle with attention deficits, boredom feels especially irritating and depressing.
Boredom isn’t just a state of mind; studies link boredom to death! In longitudinalresearch tracking over 7,000 employees in London, those who described feeling bored were 2.5 times as likely to die of a heart attack.
To cope with feeling anxiously disengaged, Rob Archer, an occupational psychologist, suggests thinking about the origin of the word “boring” — building a hole in a tunnel. Archer recommends that people, “redefine boredom less as an emotional state and more as an opportunity to move slowly and persistently toward our values.”
Like sitting on a plane ride and dealing with delays on your way to a thrilling vacation, boring and dull moments are inevitable and often part of the process of a meaningful pursuit. In the same way we hopefully wouldn’t run out of the airport when we hit an unpleasant wait, we can find strategies to change our relationship to our fear of boredom.
Three tips to stop boredom from boring you:
1. Focus! What do you want?
Don’t let boredom hijack your plan. If you’re eager to accomplish a difficult task, remember that you’ll feel best when you persevere, not when you run. Even waiting on line at Trader Joe’s can feel meaningful if you frame the time as an opportunity to practice patience. Think about the virtues that matter to you and how boredom thwarts you.
If you feel bored because you’re spending a lot of time pursuing a career that doesn’t matter to you, let your boredom act as a life alarm and take action.
2. Act into it
Feeling bored isn’t just an emotion; the experience includes actions like mentally disengaging, complaining, watch checking, and procrastinating. To feel less bored, get more engaged by acting passionate. Sitting front and center in a meeting may feel more engaging that vigorous Web-surfing.
3. Find peace in the realization that a meaningful life includes tedious moments
Trying to barricade yourself from monotonous moments is pretty impossible. And most of what we find most meaningful includes moments that aren’t that entertaining. We often feel more accomplished leaving the library after a long night studying than leaving a movie theater laughing.
If you befriend your boredom — it won’t kill you.