Boredom is increasingly becoming a widespread social illness

Boredom

In modern times, we are increasingly becoming busier. However, it doesn’t mean we are productively and meaningfully busy. More and more people are becoming bored and restless due to perpetual distractions. We are getting disconnected from our family and close friends. The quality time to relax and be in solitude is decreasing sharply. Increased use of social media is making us more self-centred and probe to boredom. People aimlessly and continuously scroll their smart phones 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’.

Almost every one of us suffer from it. Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher famously remarked ‘boredom is the root of all evils. Like the saying “an idle mind is the devil’s playground”.  Some even called it as the plague of modern society.  It’s an unpleasant state of mind. We have nothing interesting to do. No excitement, no interest in surroundings during those moments. Many of us fear to face boredom. In a very interesting experiment, conducted by a team of social psychologists from the university of Virginia, researchers found that around 25% of women and 67% of men were deliberately electrocuting themselves when they were left alone in a room for just 15 minutes. They did so to avoid boredom. Most of us do fear to face ‘boring’ moments. In modern age, people actively find ways to minimize the feeling of boredom. To get relieved from boredom, people can go to the extent of experiencing other harmful things like smoking, alcohol, drugs and even commit crime.

When people don’t know how to deal with boredom and they suffer more frequently, that boredom becomes chronic. They fear to stay in solitude. Their inability to stay alone, often leads them to be ‘lonely’. 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.

Feeling bored is only because of our mindset on how we perceive and interpret our surrounding conditions. Boredom is nothing but unpleasant emotions, the state of mind. The following 3 things are absolutely necessary to avoid boredom 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.

Many studies have confirmed a direct relationship between social connections and happiness. People become happier – and live significantly longer — when they are close to their true, long time (and/or new) friends. The greater the social interaction, the more rewarding and meaningful life we live. It also has a direct impact on our mental and physical health.

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 or 3 passions or hobbies. 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 fly.  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 on wandering mode. This is what mindfulness is, to observe whatever is happening inside our mind or around us in non-judgmental way. Meaning thereby, we shouldn’t react but to watch and respond, as situation demands. I have explained mindfulness and how to start practicing mindfulness-based meditation elaborately in another chapter titled, “Learn to Manage Your Thoughts”     

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. Not everyone like to enjoy their 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 easily stay alone and start enjoying our own thoughts/company. 

Take away: No one will dispute that the world is becoming healthier, we in general are far more fit compare to what we were 2 or 3 decades back. Life expectancy has increased, we are living longer. 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 the digital screens. But these new age maladies are leading to other far serious illnesses. Chronic boredom and loneliness increase depression, anxiety, psychological distress, heart diseases and so on. Hence, this is how these new age maladies are affecting the quality of old age and longevity. There are no medicines to take care of these ailments as they arise from our mind. We must learn how to manage our thoughts especially when we face adverse and challenging situations in life.

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