You are sitting in a math class. You hear the teacher’s slow and low toned words. All the words seem the same. You stare and look beyond the wall. You are utterly bored. You might be waiting at a doctor’s office or standing in a long queue for groceries or stranded in a traffic jam or marking envelopes. The state you are in is just the same – BOREDOM..! People have written articles about boredom. There are about 3000+ quotes on being bored in Goodreads. And I am right here trying to write about it. Now what can be so interesting about being bored? The psychologists are here to explain just that..!
I won’t tell you the definition of boredom. Come on, the definition will make you get bored..! But I can tell you what actually happens when we are bored.
Boredom is traced to the lack of the feel-good hormone of our brain, Dopamine. It’s a reward system of the brain and is secreted every time you feel happy. It has been argued that boredom-prone individuals may have a naturally lower level of dopamine. This may mean that they require a heightened sense of novelty to stimulate their brains-to feel good.
Jennifer Schuessler writes in her essay, ‘Our Boredom, Ourselves’– researchers have discovered that when people are conscious but doing nothing, the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in regions responsible for recalling autobiographical memory, imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and conjuring hypothetical events: the literary areas of the brain, you might say. When this so-called default mode network is activated, the brain uses only about 5 percent less energy than it does when engaged in basic tasks.
As a pressure to move and get past boredom, we engage ourselves in things like writing, listening to music, and solving puzzles.
So, that’s it? What is so great about it? Isn’t it very trivial and very common to get bored and get past it?
National Centre on Drug Abuse and Addiction reports that one of the top three factors for teenage substance abuse is boredom.
Our brains fear boredom (called thaasophobia) and have their own coping methods for it. They make up their own stimulations like day dreaming and hallucination. For example, there is Ganzfeld effect-when exposed to random noise devoid of any other sensory perception (vision or olfactory or gustatory or tactile), brains freak out and induce hallucinations. People see bizarre visions like horses dancing in the clouds. Some even see their dead grandmother.
Our brains begin with boredom and if left unchecked, lead to something worse. A live example of such isolation was Genie. This little girl was a victim of severe abuse, neglect and social isolation. She was locked alone in a room from the age of 20 months to 13 years, 7 months, usually strapped to a child’s toilet or bound in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized. During this time she was almost never exposed to any speech, and as a result she did not acquire a first language. When authorities found her at 13, she had not yet acquired a language and had a mental age of a 15 month old baby.
Those are worse case scenarios. The normal boredom we experience acts as a good friend and pushes us away from monotonous mind-numbing tasks. It compels us to do new fascinating things. And remember, the greatest poems were written probably when the poets were just bored. So the next time you get bored, remember it’s not just as boring anymore..!