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Is Boredom Always a Negative State of Mind?

By HERWriter
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does boredom always have to be negative? MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

It’s the weekend and you have no plans. All you’ve been doing is watching movies you’ve already seen five times before on TV, and the boredom is starting to creep in. But is boredom really such a bad feeling, after all?

Ian Robertson, a psychology professor at Trinity College Dublin, wrote in "The Conversation" that in today’s society, it can actually be a challenge to become bored because of all the technology we have at our fingertips.

However, boredom can lead to people striving to set and reach new goals that will rid them of their boredom, so it can actually be a trigger for productivity. He suggested that the cure for boredom is curiosity.

“Boredom means feeling your attention is not engaged on something either inside or outside your head,” Robertson said.

“The restlessness which comes with it signifies a search for something – but you don’t know what.”

He added that people who become easily bored tend to be less in tune with their emotional states, and they generally blame their boredom on their environment rather than their lack of curiosity.

He also said that if we do manage to get bored too frequently, sometimes it can lead to risky behaviors like gambling and dropping out of school. It can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders and binge eating as well.

Ramani Durvasula, a psychology professor at California State University, Los Angeles, said in an email that she defines boredom as “lack of mental engagement.”

“A task that may seem uninteresting may not necessarily be boring (e.g., packing boxes) -- it really depends on the mindset of the person,” she said.

“Sitting and doing nothing may not be boring -- if a person perceives it as boring -- that is more likely to be a negative mood state.”

However, she does believe that it’s generally a negative state of mind because it can lead to negative mental health consequences such as lack of enthusiasm/concern or pleasure in life or activities, and a lack of motivation.

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Boredom is an integral part of the human condition that has vexed philosophers since the Enlightenment.Of course it's not possible to identify a bore without in some sense being bored, yet being bored is hardly more acceptable these days than being a bore. Traditionally boredom, as Kierkegaard noted, was an expression of nobility, and that doesn't sit well in our democratic age. To show that you are bored suggests rudeness, superiority, even contempt, none of which are endearing qualities.

In a sense, then, boredom is a secret or solitary vice, yet the bored are clearly not alone.

May 8, 2014 - 3:21am
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