This may come as a shock to my non-bored readers, but one of the most frequent search phrases that brings traffic to my blog is “boredom in retirement.” For those that landed here from that search, I hope I can help you get un-bored.
Some new retirees feel bored because they can’t figure out what to do next. They are so overwhelmed by the reality of getting to do anything they want, that they aren’t sure what they want. If that sounds like you, read this post. Others might have had no problem with boredom initially, but now find they are having trouble shaking it. If that sounds like you, read this post.
But first, let me suggest that boredom may be getting a bum rap. According to this article, boredom may actually have some benefits. “It forces the brain to go on interesting tangents, perhaps fostering creativity. And because most of us are almost consistently plugged into one screen or another these days, we don’t experience the benefits of boredom.”
York University professor John Eastwood explains that boredom is just “wanting to, but being unable to engage in satisfying activity.” He goes on to distinguish boredom from apathy. “The [bored] person is not engaged but wants to be. With apathy, he said, there is no urge to do something.”
Gary Marcus, professor of psychology at N.Y.U points out that, “ ‘the brain doesn’t always know the most appropriate thing to do. If you’re bored and use that energy to play guitar and cook, it will make you happy. But if you watch TV, it may make you happy in the short term, but not in the long-term.” Which supports my theory that you need to engage both in activities that make you feel good, and activities that make you feel good about yourself.
Eastwood thinks that, “what people are really searching for . . . ‘is a way to unplug and enjoy down time. In an environment where we are constantly overstimulated . . . it’s hard to find ways to engage when the noise shuts down’.”
In an over-stimulating world, sometimes I yearn for a little bit of boredom. Last year, I actually looked forward to my 14-hour plane flight to Australia, just so I’d have some forced downtime to entertain boredom. Katrina Onstead would probably understand. In her ode to boredom she asks, “What is a holiday, really, but an opportunity to pay for boredom?”
You don’t have to wait for a long flight to Australia to force you to tap into the creative benefits of boredom. Author, Silas House suggests you just get over your fear of being still. For creative types, writers in particular, he explains how “we writers must learn how to become still in our heads, to achieve the sort of stillness that allows our senses to become heightened.” He goes on to give tips for achieving this kind of stillness while you are doing other stuff. Other stuff like driving to work, waiting in line at the DMV, or mowing your lawn. In other words, other stuff that could be considered boring, which sounds like a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
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