Don’t let yourself get bored

I recently read an article in the July/August issue of Scientific American Mind on boredom. It seems the definition of boredom came from the novel “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens, set during the time of societal transition. In the novel, “Sir Dedlock tenderly asks his wife, ‘Is it still raining, my love?’ To which she replies; ‘Yes, my love. And I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place. Bored to death with my life. Bored to death with myself.’ Through Lady Dedlock’s plight, Dickens introduced a new English word into the written canon – boredom.” The French call it “ennui,” which to me sounds a lot more sophisticated. To turn to someone and tell them you are suffering from “ennui” makes me feel like I’m lying on a couch in a mansion sipping a martini in one hand and a cigarette holder in the other. Just saying “I’m bored” feels so blase.

When I was a young child, the word boredom could not be uttered in my household. My mother would not tolerate any time ill spent whining about having nothing to do. If she heard the words “I’m bored,” she would immediately hand me a dust mop, broom, or rag and tell me to start cleaning something, anything. I learned early on that if I didn’t want to be the housekeeper, I had to look busy all the time, doing homework, reading, or playing outside.

Today parents seem to want to do anything not to have their children feel any boredom at all. Most often the parents provide the entertainment, play dates, athletics, computer games and such are all a part of today’s parenting. The interesting thing is that boredom can be something that helps test our imagination. If we are constantly being entertained, we have no opportunity to learn how to entertain ourselves.

But there is also a dark side to boredom. Long periods of boredom are often associated with depression and can also be the aftermath of a brain injury. It does not always hold true, but we are meant to engage in life and when we feel a lack of motivation or enthusiasm, it can lead to illness. In fact according to the article, you can actually die of boredom. “Lack of the ability to immerse oneself in the world outside our head could lead us to evaluate our experiences as meaningless.” In the end it is the need for meaning that allows us to thrive. When we lead meaningful lives it gives us a reason to get up every morning with the hope that the day will bring us joy. So keep an eye on your boredom meter, it might save your life!

Just let that little kid inside of you come out and play!

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but something happens to people when they’re in the presence of toddlers. They become semi comatose and transfixed by everything the children do. The same thing happens with cats and dogs. Perhaps we are in awe of their playfulness and their ability to be in the moment, and at the same time saddened by our loss of it. All adult eyes seem glued to the child’s every moment, and each word uttered becomes a pearl of wisdom. We are sure as we watch that a new version of Einstein is in our midst. Adult conversation becomes sprinkled with “oohs” and “ahs”. Statements are uttered, such as “Did you see him pick up that bug? I can’t believe it! Why, I wouldn’t dare. “Oh, she said she had to go potty. Isn’t that clever?” “ When it comes time to eat, each child is encouraged to “Eat it all up, or “Here comes the train. All gone. Won’t Big Bird be happy?” Whenever I’m a witness to the above, I realize that being grown-up isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. When’s the last time someone watched you all day and oohed and ahed? And how many of us have tripped and been made to feel okay? Normally the “big klutz” sign goes up and somebody makes a smart comment, such as “Have a nice trip.” I’ve also never been anywhere where a group of adults thought a bug was cute. There seems to be a united front to kill and remove the body as quickly as possible without any signs of remorse. Maybe we should consider throwing a party and have everyone come dressed as a toddler. We could make mud pies, play ring around the rosy, and not worry if everything we eat becomes part of what we’re wearing. We could appoint someone to be a doting parent that tells us we’re fabulous every five minutes or so. Unfortunately, adults, with their never ending need to become analytical would turn it into group therapy in order to discover why each individual was behaving like a child and try to find the right medication so they could calm down. What so many adults have forgotten is how to let that little kid come out once in awhile. Embrace your imagination, your sense of playfulness and your ability to be present to the wonder that is available in the everyday. You’ll find you’ll be less stressed and a lot happier.