56: Boredom

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
56: Boredom

Today, we’re talking about boredom.

Is boredom a useful thing to experience?

Show notes and links:
In Defense of Boredom: 200 Years of Ideas on the Virtues of Not-Doing from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds (Brain Pickings)
Why boredom is anything but boring (Nature)
Boredom: A Lively History (Amazon)

Full episode text

So at the end of episode 52, I mentioned an article from Brain Pickings about boredom, and I have to admit I’ve been surprised how many of you mentioned it in the discussion.

Boredom is one of the more interesting emotions or reactions that we seem capable of. In “Boredom, A Lively History” author Peter Toohey points out that boredom is “usually associated with a nourished body.” As a transient state – something that we occasionally experience – boredom can be very adaptive. After all, seeking something new or interesting or enthralling can be the mother of some very useful inventions.

On the other hand, long-term and chronic boredom could point to something else. In 1986, researchers Norman Sundberg and Richard Farmer developed a systematic way to measure boredom in the Boredom Proneness Scale, which measures the systematic and long-term likely boredom somebody will experience. A high rating on the BPS correlates with depression, anxiety, addiction, and more.

In other words, momentary boredom could be quite useful – but much like chronic stress, chronic boredom could be a larger issue for your health. Does this ring true to you?