Boredom and Loneliness – Growing Epidemics of Modern Age
In modern times, we are increasingly becoming busier. However, it doesn’t mean we are productively and meaningfully busy. Despite being busy, people are becoming bored and restless due to perpetual distractions. We are getting disconnected from our family and close friends.
The quality of time to relax and be in solitude is decreasing sharply.
Increased use of social media is making us more self-centered and probe to boredom. People aimlessly and continuously scrolling their smartphones in search of ‘interesting content’ and while doing so, they get bored. Since they are not doing anything meaningful, they feel their life monotonous and dull. They, therefore, experience empty moments of ‘boredom’
When people don’t know how to deal with boredom and they suffer more frequently then boredom becomes chronic. They fear to stay in solitude. Their inability to stay alone, often leads them to be ‘lonely’ mood. Studies have established that boredom prone people are highly susceptible to depression and loneliness.
These are all modern age maladies. Increasing number of people are becoming victims to these illnesses. As we are getting more disconnected from our own ‘self’ and fail to exist peacefully with our own thoughts, boredom and loneliness arise in our lives. We are now living in a world where loneliness is a serious public health issue. It’s a product of modern culture.
As we all know, there has been a sharp fall in family togetherness, with children spending far less time with their parents and much less face-to-face interaction. Much of this loss may be attributed to the increased popularity of social media, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and other remote means of communication.
While appearing to be tightly connected on social media, many people actually feel disconnected from others. For them, TV and their dog and cats are the main sources of company and entertainment. When the pet dies, the problem of loneliness is further aggravated. Odd as it may seem, the lonely often do not feel like talking to anybody, but it’s true.
Loneliness is emerging as one of the most challenging public-health problems. Accompanying the empty feeling of loneliness are acute sadness and depression, along with irritability and self-centredness. People experiencing loneliness are more likely to suffer from sleep problems.
According to one study, loneliness may raise the risk of heart attack by more than 40. Another study conducted in 2010 by Brigham Young University found that loneliness shortens a person’s lifespan by 15 years, about the same impacts as being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
How to handle boredom and loneliness
As explained, it’s only because of our mindset how we perceive and interpret life’s conditions. Both boredom and loneliness are nothing but unpleasant emotions, the state of mind. The following 3 things are absolutely necessary to avoid boredom and loneliness in life.
1. Nurture meaningful relationships:
True happiness comes with social relationships, especially when we are truly connected with our close friends and family members. In fact, the close ones often prove to be the ones who genuinely help us in overcoming stress, adversity, or even tragedy. Likewise, they can really rejoice in our moments of joy, fortune and happiness! True wealth comes from such relationships. A long-term, loving and trusting partnership also makes people’s lives really worth living.
2. Develop and nurture few passions:
Those who have passions and interests to follow, they can’t experience boredom and loneliness in life. There may be brief moments when such people may experience unpleasant emotions but they will never develop chronic conditions of boredom and loneliness.
Each one of us must, sooner the later, develop at least 2-3 passions or hobbies. There is no age bar to start new interests in life. Greater the interest or passion, the happier we are while performing that activity.
When we are listening to our favourite music, painting on canvas, practicing dance with our instructor, playing games of our choice, running on a treadmill, or being engrossed in conversation with a friend on any hotly debated topic, time seems to pass fast.
People can forget that they are hungry or even tired when they are absorbed in interesting activities. We might have even seen people who get completely engrossed in something like listening ‘Gurbani’ in Gurudwara, kirtan or sermons in temples, perform ‘namaz/salat’ in masjid.
3. Pursue mindfulness
we can’t simply feel boredom or be lonely if we are present on the moment. We can’t be unhappy if we are focused on certain activity of our interest. The reason is that our mind’s wandering reduces significantly when we are busy in some interesting activity.
When we are experiencing boredom and loneliness, our mind is not in the ‘present’ but in wandering mode. This is what mindfulness is, to observe whatever is happening inside our mind or around us in a non-judgmental way.
Learn to stay in solitude
Most of us find it extremely difficult to stay in solitude, all alone in a room or home. We generally dislike to spend even few minutes alone somewhere. We all are conditioned to remain busy. We continue to arrange some task or the other to do when we have nothing else. We don’t like to enjoy our own company. We don’t love to silently observe our own thoughts.
Sitting all alone in a room and observing our own stream of thoughts or our breathing is a dreadful prospect or experience for many of us. So, to avoid such situations, we keep ourselves busy. Doing nothing is far more difficult than doing something.
Now the question arises how to learn to stay in solitude, without any work or how to do nothing, the answer lies in mindfulness. By practicing meditation, we can learn the skill of staying alone and start enjoying our own thoughts/company.
No one will dispute that the world is becoming healthier, we, in general, are far more fit compared to what we were 2-3 decades back. However, the quality of life is consistently deteriorating. Far more older people are dying from cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases.
It’s true that no one dies from boredom and loneliness. No one will die from excess use of digital screens. But these new age maladies are leading to other far serious illnesses. We must, earlier the better, learn to stay alone, in solitude and with our own self.