On Finding Value in Boredom

Posted on August 27, 2016

Photo: flickr

We usually think of boredom as a state to be avoided. The existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard even went so far as to say that "boredom is the root of all evil". But in a new paper in Qualitative Research in Psychology, Tim Lomas at the University of East London says there is under-recognised value in this much maligned emotional state. To prove his point, Lomas deliberately subjected himself to an intense period of boredom, and then introspected on each minute of the experience. He claims his findings show that "boredom is not necessarily the dull, valueless state that it is commonly taken to be but rather can facilitate a fascinating array of experiences and insights."

Lomas waited until he was four hours into a 13 hour flight between Singapore and London and then began a two-hour period in which he refrained from any kind of entertainment or distraction, including avoiding meditating or engaging in any kind of interesting mental activities. Now feeling thoroughly bored he began an hour-long period of intense introspection. During this time he set his phone to vibrate every minute, at which point he made brief notes about his mental experiences on a laptop. At the end of the hour, he returned to each note and extended it into a full sentence.

Lomas says he "truly was bored" during the hour, but that analysing his notes shows that by embracing the experience and entering deeper into it, it changed, and there were benefits, including an altered perception of time: "sensations of time quickening and slowing appeared to alternate and even co-exist."

He also developed a newfound curiosity for his surroundings, such as the "beautifully ornate patterns on the uniforms of the cabin crew". In other words, he "found value in stimuli that (he'd) previously judged as lacking."

Finally, Lomas says the hour gave him the opportunity for self exploration - he noticed that his thoughts "appeared to emerge unbidden" like fish appearing in an ocean. "More generally," he says "I was intrigued by how slippery, elusive, and strange the mind was, a fleeing dance of vague ephemera."

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Emptiness, Life Purpose / Meaning / Inner-Guidance

Source material from British Psychological Society

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