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Tackle boredom smartly

Just as life was limping back to a semblance of normalcy, the COVID-19 cases in India started spiking. Though we may have the occasional outing, most of us are, by and large, home-bound. As many of our social activities are curtailed, more people are probably experiencing boredom. As psychologists have been studying this condition for decades, what insights can they offer?

In a blog post of the British Psychological Society, writer Emily Reynolds unlocks interesting research nuggets relating to boredom and provides suggestions on how we may inject some vigour and vitality when dreariness seems to overwhelm us. Foremost, she urges us to stop relying on our phone to alleviate our boredom. Though most people gravitate towards their phones almost on autopilot whenever they have a free moment, studies indicate that mindless scrolling can actually amplify your boredom.

Next, instead of viewing ennui as something to be dreaded or avoided, embrace it as an opportunity to indulge in introspection. MIT sociologist and psychologist Sherry Turkle argues in her book, Alone Together, that we need “stillness and solitude” to process our hopes, fears and dreams. Adolescents who are constructing identities need time and space away from others to get in touch with their inner selves. If we constantly reach for our phones whenever we get some downtime, we are depriving ourselves of a chance to connect and gain insights about ourselves.

Spark creativity

Boredom may also spur our creative energies, writes Reynolds. A study by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman found that people were more creative after engaging in a tedious task as opposed to doing something more enlivening. As boredom may give a fillip to your innovative side, this may be the ideal time to hone your talents and explore new hobbies. So, indulge yourself by learning to play the drums, grow a terrarium, cook sushi or master Jujutsu.

In a penetrative review of the psychological literature on boredom in the The New Yorker, writer Margaret Talbot identifies two factors that may independently contribute to our boredom. When a task lacks meaning or doesn’t engage us, either by being too simple or overly taxing, boredom can result. Suppose you aren’t very fond of cooking but you still conjure up tasty treats for your family daily. Because feeding your family and hearing their appreciative exclamations imbues the activity with personal meaning for you, cooking doesn’t necessarily become a chore. On the other hand, binge-watching a Netflix series doesn’t rank high in meaning, but is nevertheless engaging. Ideally, if an activity is both meaningful and engaging, you have hit the jackpot.

While some people are fortunate in finding paid work that meets the twin parameters of being both meaningful and engaging, others may pick hobbies if their jobs don’t deliver on either of these two fronts. So, if you find yourself fidgety and restless on a Sunday afternoon, why not make a quilt for you dad’s 60th birthday or volunteer with a local NGO that works on enhancing spoken English skills of kids in government schools? By picking activities that tap into your strengths and resonate with you, either at a personal or societal level, your boredom can morph into something that is personally relevant or for social good.

The writer blogs at www.arunasankara naryanan.com and her book, Zero Limits: Things Every 20 Something Should Know, will be released by Rupa Publications.


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 5:51:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/tackle-boredom-smartly/article34457041.ece

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