ALTHOUGH BOREDOM IS THE SAME EMOTION HABITATED FOR USlike anger or happiness, it is not as widely studied. Perhaps because boredom is less noticeable, and it can be assumed that scientists are bored of researching it. Nevertheless, like all emotions, we need it for some reason. We figure out what boredom is, how it affects the brain and body, and is it really necessary to cope with it.
TEXT: Marina Levicheva
What is boredom and what is its problem?
Boredom has several scientific definitions. For example, in this review of studies published in 2012, boredom refers to the combination of an objective lack of neurological arousal and a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction, frustration, or disinterest. Another, slightly more succinct scientific definition is that it is an unsatisfied desire for satisfying activity.
Some scientists believe that boredom has an evolutionary function - it motivates us to explore our environment. Because if a person stays in one place for a long time, he can, firstly, become more vulnerable to predators, and secondly, miss alternative activities that would bring him more benefit.
That being said, most people agree that this is a rather unpleasant feeling. Scientists, who were isolated for a year on the Mauna Loa volcano as part of the HI-SEAS experiment simulating the isolation of future space travelers, admitted in interviews that boredom was their biggest problem.
In addition to the fact that research has regularly linked high levels of boredom to unhealthy stimulating behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, a lot depends on the type of boredom we are dealing with.
What is boredom
Back in the 1930s, psychologists advanced the theory that there are several types of boredom. But it was only in 2006 that this scientist was dealt with, when Dr.Thomas Goetz and his team closely tackled the issue and discovered that people really feel bored in very different ways.
Then they got four types of boredom, determined by the level of emotional arousal that a person experiences in the process. With indifferent boredom, a person has a low state of arousal and positive emotions, so that the bored person feels good and relaxed (the situation “I just lie on the couch and do nothing”).
With calibrating boredom - a little higher excitement and slightly negative emotions, when a person wants to do something, but does not yet know what it is (the situation "in principle, I'm not bad, but I would still like to do something interesting") … Search boredom is accompanied by emotional excitement and negative emotions, when a person is actively looking for what to do (for example, when self-isolation is boring, you cannot leave the apartment, and all things have long been redone).
And finally, reactive boredom is the most negative of the group, because the bored person in this case feels so unhappy that he becomes angry and aggressive and wants to quickly get out of the situation that plunged him into this boredom (for example, leave a boring work meeting that lasts for the third hour), and states at the same time.
And in 2013, another type was added to them - apathetic boredom, which is characterized by a low level of arousal, but a high level of aversion to what is happening. According to scientists, in its manifestation it is more like depression, because a person is extremely unhappy, but at the same time does not want or cannot change anything. Most surprisingly, this is probably the most common type of boredom, affecting 36% of the sample.
Although sometimes we say that we are “deadly bored,” it is impossible to die of boredom - at least in this causal relationship.But if you keep in mind that people with certain health conditions are more prone to boredom and that boredom itself provokes destructive behavior, then a bored person may indeed be at risk of premature death.
Although sometimes we say that we are “deadly bored”, it is impossible to die of boredom - at least in this causal relationship.
What happens in the brain when we miss
Scientists from the University of Washington thought about the physiology of boredom, who managed to draw several interesting conclusions. First of all, it is not the processes in the brain that are the source of problems, but how we react to boredom. Returning to the types of boredom, if this is relaxed and in some ways even pleasant indifferent boredom, nothing terrible will happen. But if boredom is associated with negativity, it can lead to an increased risk of anxiety and even depression.
In the study of brain responses to boredom, science is still in its infancy, so there is not much research on this subject. But it is already known, for example, that people with damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, along with a tendency to boredom, are prone to risky behavior. At the same time, the frontal lobe is associated with a person's perception of time, which may explain why time passes so slowly when we are "bored and sad, and there is no one to give a hand to."
People with health conditions that affect attention (such as ADHD) are more bored and more bored than everyone else
Who gets bored most of the time
In 1990, when James Dunkert was eighteen years old, his older brother Paul crashed his car into a tree. Fortunately, he survived, but was pulled from the wreckage with multiple injuries, including a head injury. The recovery was not easy, but it worked out. However, when Paul fully recovered, he found that the drumming he loved so much no longer made him happy.
A few years later, when Dankert became a neuropsychologist, he worked with 20 young people with head injuries. Remembering his brother, he asked them if they were bored now more than before the injury. And yes, they missed it. So it was found that the suffered head injury makes a person more prone to boredom of all kinds.
Scientists have also found that people with health conditions that affect attention (such as ADHD) are more bored and bored than anyone else.
Why boredom is (at least sometimes) good
Finding herself in another creative crisis, journalist Manush Zamorodi thought that the reason might be that she was not bored enough. She noticed that the time that could previously be devoted to doing nothing is now occupied by gadgets and technology. And in 2015, she invited listeners of her Note to Self podcast to take part in a challenge, which she herself called "boring and brilliant." The idea was to allow yourself to be bored without trying to keep yourself productive and busy every minute.
As a result, Zamorodi wrote a book on this topic and founded her own company. There is every reason to believe that boredom helped her in this, too, because, as scientists say, it really can serve our creativity.
While studying emotions in the workplace in the 1990s, psychologist Sandy Mann found that boredom was the second most repressed emotion after anger. In an effort to understand why we need boredom, she launched a series of experiments based on Guildford's classic test of creativity.
In the first stage, the subjects were first asked to copy numbers from the phone book by hand for 20 minutes, and then they were asked to come up with as many uses as possible for two paper cups, which immediately turned into plant pots, children's toys, and so on.
At the second stage, the phone numbers were read aloud for 20 minutes, after which they repeated the request with glasses.As a result, as Mann anticipated, ideas became even more creative, including earrings, musical instruments and even the iconic Madonna-style bra.
In this way, the group was able to prove that people who are bored actually think more creatively and act more creatively than those who do not allow themselves to be bored.
A 2011 study found that people who get bored are also more likely to engage in prosocial and meaningful behaviors than others.
People who are bored think more creatively and act more creatively than those who do not allow themselves to be bored.
How to deal with boredom the right way
It is clear that boredom is not always necessary to get rid of and it is not always necessary to cope with it. But if you feel that you really need to, science has a few tips. First of all, go for new interests and hobbies: when looking for a suitable option, psychologists advise you to find something that optimally combines lightness and complexity, so as not to accidentally overload yourself. Also, physical activity (which, to hide, is almost always good), meditation and even ordinary conversations with friends and family can help here.
Short breaks during boring activities, on the other hand, don't seem to work very well. And especially if it's phone breaks, which in the end only increases the feeling of boredom.