Why is overcoming boredom so difficult? Annie shares her research into boredom and why it is actually an amazing part of being human. She answers this question by sharing great insight into ways to turn boredom into a truly positive experience.
Sara asks, “I’ve become very aware that boredom is a trigger for me. It generally shows up whilst I’m at home on the weekends when we have nothing planned and I have time just to be with myself, my thoughts, my feelings, etc. Home drinking actually rather than social drinking is my weakness and boredom, it sounds like such an easy thing to overcome, but in reality it’s so frustrating and difficult. Do you have any recommendations?”
How I like to approach things is rather than just giving you my recommendations for overcoming my own boredom, which is definitely a struggle for me, it’s more about actually looking at what boredom is. What does it do and what is the source? Then we can enable ourselves to come up with our own treatment for ourselves with more knowledge. I always think that knowledge is a really good way to tackle some of these big issues. So I went deep into this one and I found some really interesting stuff. Humans have been bored forever. So the first evidence of boredom is back as early as Pompei.
It Doesn't Feel Good
It’s a really uncomfortable feeling. It gets so uncomfortable for us that we seek to change our state of mind often by doing stuff that’s actually quite destructive for us. So for example if you have been drinking and you know drinking just ends up with a hangover the next day in misery and bad decisions you still might drink to relieve boredom, despite knowing that. There was a study done and it’s really interesting. They put people in a room for 15 minutes with an electric shocker and they showed them… they had them touch the electric shocker and it hurt and they said okay, this is an electric shocker. Then they put them in the room and they left them alone with just their thoughts for 15 minutes. 80 percent of the people left in the room would rather shock themselves and cause themselves pain than just sit there in the room for 15 minutes and be bored.
Boredom is a really uncomfortable emotion and it’s interesting because it’s almost an emotion we feel guilty about. Boredom after addiction is especially troublesome with the guilt added in. We feel bad about being bored because if you compare it to other uncomfortable emotions wanting to change your state is a good thing. You want to take your hand off the flame, if you will, not to get burned or you want to relieve the physical pain. So the decision to change it is a good thing whereas boredom, we almost feel embarrassed that we’re bored. As if it’s something we shouldn’t be feeling which is really, really interesting. More and more people are saying boredom is not trivial at all.
In fact there’s a huge amount of research that’s currently been going on about boredom that I had no idea about. There are some great articles saying okay, what is this emotion? It is real and it is definitely makes us uncomfortable. Boredom is something that is so uniquely human. What is it and what does it mean? They even have a way to test yourself for how bored you are, your propensity to be bored.
The Boredom Proneness Scale
The average boredom number is 81 to 117 on this test. You won’t be surprised Sara, or anyone listening, to know that people who are prone to addiction are more easily bored. We’re often trying to get ourselves out of a state of boredom. Boredom after addiction is a definite trigger. In fact a 2003 survey of teenagers showed that those who said they were easily bored, were 50 percent more likely to try drinking, illegal drugs or smoking than those who said they weren’t easily bored. Physiologically there’s also a connection between boredom. What that means is it takes more dopamine to trigger the dopamine related emotions that you would be having in people more prone to boredom. Studies have shown people with fewer dopamine receptors are also often more prone to pleasure seeking and with that comes addiction. So there’s this whole thing wrapped around the feelings of boredom and being addicted, which I found really really interesting.
What is boredom?
Boredom is defined as being disinterested in the outside world and in the world of your thoughts. You’re just alone with yourself. It’s almost as if with boredom we’re saying that life itself, just being, isn’t enough. That we need something more. That’s a really depressing thought but that is in essence what boredom is defined as.
Arthur Schopenhauer said “If life possessed in itself had a positive value of real content, then there would be no such thing as boredom. Mere existence would fully satisfy us.”
What he’s saying is that life, just existing, isn’t positive by itself because if it were boredom wouldn’t exist. Now of course that’s not the final word on that because we can’t believe that that’s true, but boredom does exist still what does that mean? Does that mean that there’s something wrong with the very essence of being? That being, just existing, is not enough with our own selves and our own minds? I can’t say that I want to take that answer. It’s obviously very depressing but then there is something else. It’s like maybe, maybe it’s not that just being is not enough.
Maybe it’s that we, the human spirit, the human mind, the human capacity to create and do and change the world is incredibly awesome. Maybe there’s just something incredible about human beings.
Boredom after Addiction
Boredom after addiction just like anything else, there’s lots of studies to show that if the brain is left completely bored or if someone is totally isolated, people can actually go crazy. It’s not a healthy emotion beyond a point. You need to do stuff to relieve your boredom and stimulate your brain and really positive stuff. So this had me reflecting on the first year that I went alcohol free and I started to think about all of the different sorts of things that I used to do. I made myself a list before I quit drinking of everything I was looking forward to because I had been told by other people that when you quit drinking you open up a ton of time. There’s so much time that you just spent in this kind of half state of consciousness so you weren’t really thinking and you didn’t even have the capacity to be bored because you were drunk.
Hear the whole story
Listen to the podcast to hear all I have to say about boredom after addiction and dealing with the trigger. Be sure to let me know your thoughts and your experiences in dealing with boredom after addiction.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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