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How to solve boredom the right way

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Being bored can be frustrating. Feeling like there’s nothing to do, or nothing you want to do, can make it really tempting to get rid of this feeling by picking up an electronic device of one kind or another and start scrolling through a feed of photos or short videos. In other words, boredom can make it really easy to fall into a sort of “digital default.” 

This digital default is problematic because it doesn’t actually solve the problem—it only serves to temporarily conceal it. 

The reason for this is very simple: the problem that a digital default solves isn’t the actual problem that needs solving. When you’re bored, the problem isn’t that nothing is interesting to you; the problem is that you aren’t being interested in anything. 

You see, screens appear to solve the problem of boredom because they give you lots of things to look at, lots of things that are so very interesting that you forget to be interested in real things. 

Being interested in things is an activity that can require practice. With so many things in the world today clamoring for your attention it’s easy to forget that the only person who should really decide whether or not something is interesting is you. But it’s true. You are the one who decides if something is interesting or not. You are the one who decides what gets your attention. 

This is really easy to see in young children as they make their way through the world. They interest themselves in so many things that we (older people) mistakenly think are boring or mundane. They are fascinated by the inner workings of hinges, riveted by the curves and textures of a wooden spoon, and captivated by the surface of a new rock. A hinge isn’t inherently interesting nor is a wooden spoon nor is a rock. But the child makes them interesting by giving them his or her full attention and engaging with the objects completely. 

So how does this help you solve boredom? 

It’s easy. Instead of seeking something (such as YouTube videos or someone’s Instagram feed) to interest you when you’re bored, decide instead to be interested in something. It can be something simple like a leaf or something more complex like a project of decluttering a part of your living space. Instead of waiting for whatever you come up with to become interesting enough to you to do something about it, decide right then and there that you are interested in it.

Then, do something with that interest. Examine the leaf. Count how many individual parts you can see. Find all the shades of green you can differentiate across its surface. Closely inspect the part where it connects to the plant. See if you can figure out how it stays attached. Very soon you’ll find you aren’t bored anymore.

The best part of doing this is it won’t have any negative effect on you. This is quite unlike attempting to solve boredom with screens where the usual result is a decrease in your willingness or desire to do anything constructive or creative after spending time consuming entertainment designed to get you to keep scrolling, keep watching, and keep tapping. 

TL;DR

Often we check our phones and other electronic devices because we’re bored. Instead of defaulting to a screen, get interested in the world around you. Look around and find something you haven’t noticed before. Try to learn all you can about it by looking, touching, smelling, and otherwise using your senses. Remember, when you’re bored, the problem isn’t that nothing is interesting to you; the problem is that you aren’t being interested in anything.

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