I want to be bored.
When I was a child, one of my worst enemies was boredom. However, as I progressively get older and grumpier – and excited about a new laundry detergent –, who would have thought that I would begin to miss the feeling of not knowing what to do. Suddenly, I feel like I rubbed the wrong magic oil lamp. But what is it about boredom that I miss so much?
I remember walking through Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, past the unimpressed reindeer pulling the children on sleighs – which were not really sleighs because they were on wheels because there was not enough snow. But I assume once a family books the trip to Lapland, only for the children to see Santa Claus Village, you just have to do the reindeer thing. Even if it’s on mud. Still, what impressed me even more, was when I saw a child, after being presented with one of a million little stuffed kittens, throwing it on the floor, cry-screaming: “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!!!”
I think what this child meant to say was that this place was way too over-stimulating. Hearing the kid cry-scream about being constantly targeted by an extremely commercialised Santa was iconic. But the sound of her tiredness was also too familiar: I can’t sit down a minute knowing that I’m less than a second away from being able to watch, read, listen, or laugh my millisecond-long boredom away. Even when I started thinking about wanting to be bored, I couldn’t stop myself from finding out why I want to be bored. So, consider the following from a Humanities major who passed her science requirement by taking Science and Society.
According to an article written by Shane W. Bench and Heather C. Lench, boredom plays a significant role in human functioning as it motivates us to create new goals when the previous one is not beneficial anymore; this might help us pursue things we otherwise would have missed. Consequentially, boredom uniquely influences our behaviour, cognition, experience, and physiology. In other words, although the experience of boredom is a negative one, the negative experience is necessary for us to get our butt up and find another way to keep ourselves busy. This way, we gain social, cognitive, emotional, and experiential stimulation, which we otherwise wouldn’t get. ¹ To some of you, this may not be news, but this really got me thinking about how I need to make space for boredom and how much time I have wasted avoiding it.
And of course, we have developed great ways to keep us from boredom. I’m not talking about taking up crocheting, reading a book or creating shitty PowerPoint presentations (am I the only one?); I’m talking about that dirty feeling you get after watching Instagram reels for 2 hours (for that exact reason, I will not download TikTok! (ok boomer)). But on my quest to find out how to get bored again, I found an interesting post on Reddit.
Sherlocksdumbcousin (I know) is having the same issue as me: “I want to be able to be bored again. I want to not be such an expert at filling my time with a thousand little nothings. It didn’t use to be like this… I used to have an active mind that felt like a lion in a cage without stimulation/relaxation.” ² The lion metaphor is somewhat pretentious, but Sherlocksdumbcousin has a point here. Most responses suggested books or podcasts discussing the topic of boredom, and sometimes you would have someone recommend a Rubik’s cube. But I guess what Sherlocksdumbcousin and I want is to have time dedicated to just nothing. When the toys lost their appeal, I used to go to my brother’s room to open his door, say nothing, and leave it open, just to annoy him; thats the kind of boredom I want.
Realising that I was probably not going to get an answer from Reddit, I found another article elaborating on The Art of Being Bored. According to this article, there are five types of boredom: 1. Indifferent (neutral), 2. calibrating (wandering thoughts), 3. searching, 4. reactant (feelings of aggression), 5. apathetic (deeper negative state of mind). If you ask yourself which type of bored you are (don’t go on Buzzfeed), ask yourself, why am I bored? Indifferent or calibrating boredom gives your brain time to recharge, whereas apathetic boredom requires deeper attention to improve your overall situation. So, if you feel like me and want to spend more time calibrating-bored, get your phone out of your reach, and find an activity that requires little or no concentration – like simply letting your mind wander. This is not the same as meditating: when you meditate, you rid your mind of stimulation – but when you are bored, you try to feel stimulated but fail. ³ Yes, that’s right UCR students: this is your time to fail.
Written by Charlotte Vreden
Image credit: Marie Dailey/ Women Street Photographers
1 Shane W. Bench and Heather C. Lench, ‘On the Function of Boredom’, Behavioral Sciences 3, no. 3 (September
2013): 459–72, https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030459.
2 Sherlocksdumbcousin, ‘How Can I Train Myself to Get Bored Again?’, Reddit Post, R/DecidingToBeBetter, 15
3 Emily Esposito, ‘The Art of Being Bored: How to Be More Productive By Doing Nothing’, Zapier, 9 April 2019,