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!

Reading A Book Is The Perfect Cure For Boredom

It’s difficult to think of a person who doesn’t have the desire to learn – whether the subject is history, sports, politics, cooking or just plain trivia.

Research suggests that individuals who are avid learners are likely to be more physically and mentally healthy than their less-engaged peers. There has been incredible validation by science in this area. What we learn and how we do it will greatly influence our future.

I can still see my grandfather at 86 sitting at the kitchen table with his espresso, Italian newspaper and stacks of books.
And my mother never stopped flaunting her latest finding about the stock market or something interesting she’d heard on the Larry King TV show. Every time we chatted, she would challenge me to see if I knew what she knew. I felt compelled to keep up with her.

I try to do the same thing with my children and grandchildren because I want them to stay on top of things, not be pushed under by them.

The grandkids know I won’t put up with the common kid complaint: “I’m bored.” I knew never to say that because I’d always get the same response: either “go read a book” or “I’ll give you something to do.” The latter meant manual labor. My mother could always find something for me to do that was not particularly exciting, such as cleaning the bathroom. Reading a book became my savior.

Having a brain that can function into our later years takes effort. Yes, some of our genetic coding and circumstances out of our control mean something. But every day we can make a point of increasing our learning capacity. Even simple acts like becoming more observant or listening more carefully instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next can be great educational experiences.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a great quote from Eartha Kitt: “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

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